Thursday, October 10, 2013

Most commonly asked...

After my last post, a rant of severe proportion, I've decided to do a post that would be a little more useful...

Through the help of modern technology, via this thing I commonly refer to as the "interwebs", I get asked many questions from fans and aspiring drummers. The most commonly asked question as of late is this: How do I make it big like you did?

Truthfully, there is no concretely guaranteed way to accomplish this. If there was, I would have found it long ago and avoided many years of keeping hunger at bay by eating Ramen noodles and ketchup soup.
I certainly wish to be helpful, but I feel that it is my duty to be a realist over the matter.'s my two cents.

Step one: Be realistic. When you put the numbers to it all, there's no way that everyone is going to "make it big" in the music business. Just look at how many people play a musical instrument (A WHOLE LOT). Now look at how many hugely successful bands/artists there are out there (VERY FEW). Clearly, not everyone will become hugely successful. Once you have accepted this axiom, you can move on to step two.

Step two: Define success. You don't have to be "famous" to be hugely successful. A long while back I defined success for myself. It was a simple way of looking at it...and I still look at it this way. Success in the music business (for me) means that I never have to rely on a full-time day job for my income. Success (for me) means that on my taxes, my primary occupation reads as "Musician". Does that mean I never had to struggle? NO. Does that mean I never took part-time jobs to make sure my bills got paid? NO. What it has always meant is my primary source of income was from making music. I have always thought of myself as being successful. I never cared about fame or money...those things can lead one down unscrupulous paths in my opinion.
Once you have clearly defined success for yourself, you may find that the search for success may become easier. Now you're ready for step three.

Step three: Set your goals. Believe it or not, after you have defined success for yourself and what being successful will be for you, you have actually set a goal for yourself. Feel free to go ahead and set a few more. Perhaps conquering and mastering a particular style of playing, or soloing concept. Perhaps a good goal to set would be to do more networking with local musicians...or certain touring musicians. Maybe something smaller like practicing just ten minutes extra every day.
Write down your goals. You cannot imagine how empowering and motivating it can be when you put things down with pen and paper. You can also keep track of your progress. And now...

Step four: Achieve. Now that you have your goals set, it's time to work to achieve them. Do what it takes to accomplish the tasks you have asked of yourself. It won't be easy. In fact, it might actually be very difficult. There will certainly be times you find yourself asking, "Why am I doing this?!?". Stay the course. If you do, your hard work and dedication will pay off and you will be scratching a few of those goals off the list. If you find that your goals just are not getting realized, perhaps you may need to put more effort into accomplishing them; or perhaps you might need to remove them from the list and replace them with something you would rather be dedicated to.

Step five: Be honest with yourself. This is a big one. If you can do this. You can really make some progress towards realizing your goals and accomplishing them. Be honest about what you really want. Be honest about about how much effort and dedication you are willing to put forth to accomplish your goals. If you are not being 100% honest with yourself, you most likely will never accomplish anything to great levels of success, and if you actually do, you most likely won't feel very fulfilled.

It takes dedication, determination, perseverance, and clear and honest intent to become successful at anything. Some times that's all you need. Some times it will never be enough. Some times you will bust your hump with all you have and you might still fail to reach your goals. But there's one more thing you should consider...

Here's my real secret to success...FAITH.
During the toughest of times on my musical journey through life, and especially when I felt that everything in the world was conspiring against me to ensure my failure, I relied on faith to see me through.
That's right folks...the real secret to my success is the will of God. I had faith that He had a plan for me, and that part of that plan was for me to be making music. He blessed me with a gift, and it was my duty to put it to use. I also had faith that He would never give me anything I couldn't handle. I had faith that He would give me strength to change the things I could change, courage to accept those things I couldn't change, and the wisdom to know the difference. It was my faith that helped me persevere through the tough times, and it was my faith that gave thanks and glory to God when times were not so tough.
Yep...God is good. He has blessed me beyond what I feel I deserve. He continues to bless me every day. All that I have is because of Him. And I couldn't be more humbled or grateful.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

the Band-Aids of life...

My beautiful wife, Holly, has a saying about those uncomfortable moments in life -the ones that we hate to deal with but have to confront. Her saying is that it's best to "just rip the Band-Aid off". It's a cute saying.

At some point in our lives, we have all had cuts or scrapes that required a adhesive bandage...and at some point when we pulled the bandage off, it hurt to do it. So we lightly tugged and ever-so-gently pulled at the bandage, wincing and grimacing all along the way. The pain of removing the bandage was
invariably as excruciating as the wound itself. Had we just pulled it off quickly, it would have only stung for a moment, and then would have started to feel better.

Sometimes in life we have to do things that are not fun. Things that we certainly don't look forward to doing. Things that we don't want to do, but know that eventually we will have to do anyway whether we like it or not. Our natural inclination toward these events is to put things off, drag them out, deny that they are happening -basically, anything we can to procrastinate and not be forced to deal with the inevitable. What we should do is go ahead and "just rip the Band-Aid off".

Holly and I recently took our younger daughter off to college. We helped her move into a cute little rental house that she will share with two of her friends. Since our little one graduated from high school back in May, the entire summer had been building up to this event. We helped to gather items needed for the house, purchased furniture, purchased needed clothing items, made lists and checked them many times over... It was one of those things that kept snowballing into something bigger and more expansive every day. It seemed like the more we needed, the more we bought; the more we bought, the more we realized what we forgot we needed. I think we're still thinking of things we forgot to pick up.

We gathered, packed, hauled, un-packed, placed, arranged... I, for one, assembled a bed with drawers in the pedestal, a large headboard, a bedside table, hung curtains, AND I installed a new dishwasher. The girls unpacked boxes, and put away things. There was a lot of work to do, and we all chipped in together and got it done.
Then, eventually the moment came when it was time for us to leave; leave our little girl, at her new place, without us, for the first time.
I could see what was happening. It was getting late. We could have stayed over for one more night. However, the work was done. And, I could see the look in our little girl's eyes...the one that let me know she was wondering just how much longer we would be staying. Not that she wanted us to go...she was simply looking forward to her first night there without the parents.
I could also see the look in Holly's eyes, and hear the tone in her voice...she wasn't ready to leave. Not that she wanted to stay. She simply was trying to avoid the inevitable for a little while longer.

We said our goodbyes, and left. It was a rough drive home. I'm sure that I would have been more of an emotional wreck than I was, however, being a step-dad, I simply do not possess all of the memories that Holly has with our sweet girl. My beautiful wife, cried almost all the way home. Tears of sadness; tears of joy; tears of reflection; tears of hope. As I drove us home, and watched my sweet wife have a breakdown that at one point was beginning to resemble that of Sally Fields in "Steel Magnolias", I began to realize what it was that was going on...
Rather than the proverbial "apron strings" being cut, and with very sharp and exacting nature, those "apron strings" were being slowly untied...and our trip home, and all of the tears shed along the way, was very much the same as "just ripping the Band-Aid off". It stings a lot right now...but only because we just did rip it away.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Real solutions for real problems

I'll probably catch some flack for this post...but I don't really care. If you don't like what I have to say, I encourage you to stop reading and move on. If you don't agree, that's fine too...I expect some of you to disagree with my opinions.

We have some seriously problematic issues in this country. We need some serious solutions, but not ones that involve partisan politics backed by corporate greed, nor do we need solutions of the hypocritical and divisive nature that pit the blue-collar working class against the white-collar upper class against the non-contributing, third or fourth generation welfare class. What we do need is this...simple, common sense solutions that can actually solve problems and help our country in as many ways as possible while still maintaining strict fairness along all lines, regardless of which direction those lines may run. Here are a few of my suggestions...

Let's begin with taxes. There is an antiquated and utterly useless formula that is used to calculate taxes, both for corporations and individuals. It is wholly unfair in most regards, as well as unaffordable. Its methods truly seem to serve only to further divide the classes and penalize those who bust their asses trying to make something more of their lives and livelihoods. We should consider going to a flat, fixed rate tax for all Americans, for individual taxpayers and corporations; one with no slick deductions, no unfair write offs, and no unfair advantages for those who do not actually have to do that much to earn their living. We should also consider some simple ways to keep jobs here in America, but also entice and encourage companies and corporations to bring and create more jobs here while discouraging companies and corporations from moving their workforce elsewhere. For example, companies that are solely based in America should enjoy a low manageable tax rate with a simple formula for calculating taxes. How much money did your company make last year, regardless of how or where it was made? How much did your company pay out by way of employee salaries, withholdings, and benefits (executive bonuses not included)? Subtract the former from the latter and that's your taxable profit. Send the IRS 10% of that and your tax bill for the year has been paid.
If your company or corporation has at least three quarters (75%) of its workforce here in America including executives, same basic formula but at the slightly higher 12% tax rate. If your corporation has at least half (50%) but less than 75% of its workforce within our borders, same formula again, but at the tax rate of 15%. If your corporation has less than half of its workforce here in America, you should pay at the rate of 20%. If you are a foreign company doing business in America, the rules will apply to you as well.
I think this would provide a very manageable tax rate system for corporations and companies, while simultaneously encouraging the creation of jobs for Americans and discouraging having a workforce elsewhere.
For the individual taxpayer citizens...there should be a flat rate of 10% paid by any individual citizen with no write-offs, and no deductions. Here's the simple formula: How much income did you make (minus withholdings for federal, state, and municipal taxes as well as pre-tax retirement savings)? Send 10% of that amount to the IRS. No...we don't care how you made it. If you made that money digging a ditch, selling your summer home, or playing the stock makes no difference. If you brought home a thousand dollars or twenty million, you still have to pay your 10% just like every other American citizen. Now that is a truly fair tax system...because math cannot lie. 10% is 10% no matter what.
The only exception to all of this would have to be farmers who provide food for our masses. Not the big food-processing conglomerates...American farmers. The men and women in America who get out every day and bust their asses from sunrise to sunset working the land to provide the produce, dairy, and meat that "We, the People" depend upon for sustenance...these fine, hard-working people should enjoy a tax rate of 5%. They are already providing a much needed service to the American people, and they should be rewarded for their extremely hard work, dedication and perseverance.
While we're taking the common-sense, no-nonsense approach to overhauling things, let's address the issue of government entitlement programs. The welfare program should be there. It's actually a great idea. Helping those who need help. However, it has become less of an actual help to Americans and more of a hinderance to our society. The welfare program has become a crutch for far too many Americans to rely upon so they do not have to actually earn a living. So, let's see if we can fix it so that it can truly be used for its intended purpose but cannot be taken advantage of. What about this? Let's create an aspect to the program that can truly help its recipients to become productive members of society. In order to receive welfare benefits, recipients must complete two different educational programs, one in a technical field, the other in the field of a manual trade. These educational programs should be provided at no cost to the welfare recipient, at reputable institutions, and for those with small children, a childcare program could be provided. Don't show up to class?...your check will be short. Don't pass the courses?...your check will be short. To help prevent the possibility of the program being taken advantage of, a time limit of how long you can be a recipient. Most un-employment benefits have a time limit; so should welfare. Perhaps a limit of ten years, maybe less. The term should be long enough to earn a couple of associate degrees and/or serve an apprenticeship. After the educational courses are complete, recipients will be able to remain on welfare for up to two years while they are helped by way of job placement services to find work and begin a career, and for those who pursue a career in which certification testing and licensing has to occur, the program should help cover the cost of that as well. While we're at it, we, as Americans, should demand that welfare recipients pass random drug testing and maintain clean police records while receiving welfare. A nominal thing to ask for a free education, training, and having your bills paid by taxpayers. Get convicted of a crime while on the system?'re out until you have paid your debt to society. Piss positive for narcotics without a prescription?'re out for a year. And, oh yeah, your ten years picks up where it left off. Your ten years of free moolah just wrapped up? have to sit out for ten years before reapplying...and none of this applying under your children's names bullshit either. In order to receive it, recipients must be legal citizens, over the age of majority, and participating in the social security program. Look at it this way...the portion of the American tax base that would be picking up the tab for all of this need to be getting something for their money. I think responsible, rehabilitated, contributing members of society who keep themselves free of drugs and crime would be something everyone would be willing to help pay for.
Granted, this type of system would not work for everyone in the program, but in the long term would free up more funding in the program for those who are affected by disabilities, severe health issues that prevent them from working at all, and for those who have become too elderly to continue to work. Certainly special consideration should be given and provided for those few.

See...a few sensible ideas. Sure they might need a little tweaking or fine-tuning; but these are sensible ideas that would entice companies to create more jobs here in America; sensible ideas that help those who need it while giving them a way to become productive members of society who contribute to the tax base; sensible ideas that help to prevent citizens from becoming a financial drain on the pockets of those who actually are employed; sensible ideas that allow those who are paying into the tax base to bring home more of their hard-earned money; sensible ideas that do away with tax brackets with deductions that only benefit the wealthy; sensible ideas that ensure that those who work hard to make a better life for themselves are not penalized for their hard work by having to pay higher taxes.
By the way Congress, you all would have to be put on strict budgetary limitations until the country has built up a surplus. No more bullshit spending on bullshit programs. We, the People, are tired of bullshit, and if you're not part of a realistic and sensible solution, then you are continuing to perpetuate the problems. And those tax rates...they're not going to be flexible. They will stay put after they are put into place. The last thing We, the People, need is a system in which you few government officials (who are employed by We, the People) can continue to raise taxes and increase spending and debt.

I would suppose that when We, the People, stop voting in politicians who are only capable of saying all the right things for all the wrong reasons, and start voting in public servants who actually do all the right things for the right reasons, the country will be a better place. Until then, we will have to suffer at the idle hands of those who have chosen to do as little as possible while appearing to do as much as they can while the sea of hypocrisy and greed continue engulf this country. If the "career politicians" in this country were to be honest with themselves and their constituents that they work for, if they were to truly be noble and accountable in their public service, most would cease to be "career politicians".

Don't like these ideas that I've presented? How about this one...
Keep everything just as it is with welfare, other entitlements, and the tax system as a whole, save for one minor change; that change would be to allow the taxpaying citizens of this country to pick and choose how their money is actually spent. If that were to happen, how long would it take for most of the bullshit programs our government pays for in this country to be completely defunct? How long would welfare last if the American public -as individual taxpayers- were allowed to choose whether or not to fund it with our hard-earned tax dollars?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Accountability and Acceptance

As I have gotten older I have come to realize that accountability and acceptance are two things that we, as human beings, have the most trouble dealing with. Part of the problem is a result of the culture that my generation in general has been taught and has now passed down to our own children. The whole attitude of "not my child" has grown into an attitude of "not me" or "it ain't my fault". What probably started as an utterance born of shock and denial, has now matured into more of the same, accompanied by a general disposition that disregards responsibility for one's own actions and the inability to deal with the butterfly effect and repercussions of those actions; especially when it is affecting the one person who set it all in motion...

My mother had an interesting way of teaching me both of those things...accountability and acceptance. She had a saying that was probably taught to her by her parents.
"You made your it's you who has to lie in it."
Clearly an easy-to-grasp circumlocution that was my mother's way of saying, "It's your caused deal with it"; suggesting that everyone is responsible for taking care of the fallout that they, themselves create.
There's a lot of wisdom there, and the older I get, the more I have come to understand that.

For every choice you make, there will be consequences; and don't bitch about it when the wheels of karma come around to exact their justice upon you in an unfavorable manner. In essence...take your lumps.

Recently I endured a scenario in which someone who used to be a friend had set into motion a long-term series of events that resulted in a complete and total irretrievable breakdown of the friendship. I think that it is safe to say that that particular bridge has been sufficiently burned; never to be rebuilt again. I would go into greater detail, but the names and circumstances shall be omitted to protect the guilty and unscrupulous.
At the end of it all, this person came to me to tell me how heartbroken and sad they were that everything happened, and that it was purely unavoidable. The terms "livid and seething" are far too soft to accurately describe my emotions over the matter as a whole, and certainly do not come close to describing what I felt after hearing what anyone of sound mind would call a "bullshit apology".
What I wanted to do in response was to allow every single of ounce of anger and rage out all at once in a furious retort of denigration and belittlement. However, because restraint and good judgement got the best of me, I took a more subtle approach and very sternly and directly pointed out to my weakly lamenting antagonist that it was their choice to pursue that particular course and that their actions left them the only person to blame for the loss of the friendship. I then pointed out that another individual very close to it all would forever be considered a friend because they had elected to remove themselves from the scenario altogether, but that my antagonist would never be considered a friend as a result of everything; as a result of being so knowingly concrete, and entirely absent of conscience in their wrongdoing.
After a very poor attempt at rationalization by my antagonist, which failed miserably, I then sternly instructed my antagonist to "not ever consider me to be a friend". Once "called out" in this manner so completely, said antagonist then changed their tone from very poorly displayed lamentable apology to one of outrightly pugnacious and combative belligerence.
Given the circumstances, my antagonist had no real reason to assume that the "apologetic" scenario would have unfolded any differently or more favorably...if favorably at all. To see this person become enraged at me over the fact that I did not react the way they had presumably hoped for was downright insulting, offensive, and appalling.

When you are the responsible party for a series of events that results in someone having a bad opinion of you, don't be upset at the person you've wronged when they don't accept your apology. When you set the wheels of karma in motion by unscrupulous actions, don't be angry at those you have affected with your actions when the wheel of karma comes crushing down upon you like a assured that it will.
The moral of the story is this...
It's your made it's you who will have to lie in it. Be accountable for your actions, and accepting of the consequences...even when they are highly unfavorable. Take your lumps as they come to you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Comin' 'round full circle... old phrase I heard once to describe an event in which something current comes in contact with its beginnings.

This is exactly what happened to me recently in Baton Rouge, LA. My bandmates and I were headlining a big festival there. Of the many folks there in attendance, one concert-goer happens to have been my very first band director, Chip Vickers. He was there with his family, to see my band perform. And although I knew he was going to be there, I cannot begin to explain the overwhelming feelings of pride and humility that came over me once he was actually there.

My father was the one who gave me my first guitar and helped me begin my love affair with music, but it was Chip who supplied me with direction and set me upon my true path. He patiently helped me learn the essential rudiments of drumming, and taught me to read music. He gave me proper inspiration and guidance that sparked a flame within me that has yet to go out. Although I was under his instruction in the junior high band program for only two years, he had an impressive impact on me. His high level of patience with me and all of the other students, instilled in me an approach to teaching that I try to use to this day when I take on a student. He also instilled in me a great curiosity for music...which led me to become an eternal student of my instrument.

I certainly hope that I have made him proud. I don't know how many of his former students can lay claim to having a handful of Grammy Awards on the mantle, but I'm sure that it's not many. I also hope that he understands that it is due to him, in great part, that I have become the musician that I am today. My love, fascination, and appreciation of music, and the impact that it can have on everyone, certainly can be attributed to Chip Vickers...he helped me to discover so much and at such an early age.

And while there are several others who have been teachers of mine- knowingly and otherwise- who deserve to be recognized for helping to mold me into what I have become so far, right here, right now, in this very moment, I am compelled to say thank you to him, and him alone.

So without further ado...

To Mr. John "Chip" Vickers,
Thank you. I have what I have, and have accomplished musically what I have because you, my dear friend, so greatly encouraged it all those years ago.
You taught me the basics of rudimental drumming (quite well I might add) and taught me to read music. Not just drum notation written out on one You taught me about playing with dynamics and with expression. You were insistent that I apply myself and practice diligently. Your enthusiasm and encouragement made such a lasting impression on my life. Whether by accident or design, you taught me how to be competitive with no one other than myself, and then challenged me to become the best that I could become. You taught me the value of helping others learn and the joys that come from sharing musical ideas and concepts. You helped me to appreciate music of all types, and most importantly, helped me realize just how much I love to make music.
You may feel as if you only taught me "the basics", but I can assure you that those "basics" have served me well and continue to do so. I have had many music teachers along the way in my musical journeys, but none of them have had quite the same significant influence on me as you have.
With all of the love I have...thank you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The long trip home

DISCLAIMER- This post, much like my last one, will contain some profanity...OK...more than some...a lot actually! If you are easily offended, please stop reading now and move on to another post. Otherwise, don't be bitchin' about it later. Enjoy!

Australia is beautiful...or at least what I saw of it. The major cities I visited, Melbourne and Sydney, were gorgeous. The trip out to Deniliquin was picturesque. Gold Coast was stunning. The people I met while there were extremely polite and giving of their time and efforts. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I cannot wait to get back and visit again. Hopefully, the next time I go I will be able to see even more of the country.

My trip back home...
Holy shit!! I thought the jet-lag was bad going over to Australia. I lost an entire day going there. Seriously. I might as well go ahead and permanently clip March 23 out of my 2013 never happened. While in Australia, someone commented that I would "get that day back on the way home"...BULLSHIT!! I left my hotel in Gold Coast at 4:30 am on April 2...travelled a total of thirty hours (including layovers)...and arrived back home at 10:30 pm on April 2. I didn't get my March 23rd back...I just had to experience the same day, April 2nd, for longer than should ever be necessary.
And what a day it was...
To begin with, our hotel apparently sat on the line of two different timezones...and where my clock on my cell phone and the clock in the hotel room were both reading 3:30 am, it was actually 4:30 am. So a mad rush was in order to get my stuff gathered up and out the door to begin the journey home.
---By the way...did I mention that I had only two hours of sleep before getting up to go home?---
We get to the airport and get our boarding passes, and then I make my way to the security checkpoint, where I am told, after waiting in line for almost thirty minutes, that I cannot board the plane with the gift I had purchased for one of my daughters, a didgeridoo (or as she called it, the "blow-through-the-stick-with-your-mouth-and-make-the-wow-wow-wow-wow-noise-thingy"). I was informed that I would have to go back to ticketing and check it. So...
I run back to ticketing to check the damn thing. Lucky for me, all of our checked baggage had not been checked in...we still had some large, over-sized pieces that were being tagged when I got back to the counter. I check the didgeri-whats-it and run, run, run back to security to try to be screened...for the second time. I wait in line for another ten minutes and just as I was putting my stuff on the conveyor belt to have it X-rayed, I hear the final boarding call for my flight. Oh shit...oh shit...oh shit!!! I CANNOT MISS THIS FLIGHT!!!
I get screened, and before I leave the checkpoint, a polite fellow with a badge and strange Indian accent decided he needed to pull me aside and swab my backpack for explosives. A gigantic pain in the ass, but considering that I was looking haggard from a lack of sleep, anxious from the fear of missing my flight, sweating bullets due to my early morning sprint to and from the ticketing counter, AND considering that I'm not a fan of explosive devices being brought on to commercial flights either, I was understanding of the situation and happy to oblige. Two and a half excruciatingly long minutes later, the sensor machine resounded with a happy sounding "ding" accompanied by a green light and I was off to the gate.
Again...I run, run, RUN to the gate to find that I was (seemingly) the last person to get on board. Whew! Just did make it!!
Down the chute, into the plane, and down the aisle...I get in my seat as quickly as possible, stow my backpack under the seat in front of me, buckle my seatbelt, and sit back to hear the announcement from the pilot that there was some last-minute oversized baggage being loaded into the plane and that "we should be on our way in about twenty to thirty minutes." ---Well...SHIT! all that running and panicking for much of nothing!---
Two hours later...we arrive in Melbourne to switch planes for our international flight, the process of which included leaving one terminal, rechecking with ticketing, getting over to the next terminal, being re-screened for security, going through customs and immigration in order to leave (hey, that's how they do it over there...who am I to argue?), and making my way through what seemed like six miles of "Duty-Free" shops to arrive at my gate.

Did I mention that I didn't sleep during that first flight...for fear that I would go completely unconscious and be unable to wake back up to switch planes? Well there you go.
I was looking forward to the next leg...a thirteen hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles across the during that leg that I would sleep...or so I thought.

I get on board the plane, get comfy in my seat, review the safety information on the card in the seat pocket in front of me, prepare to drift off into a much needed slumber. Then a flight attendant comes by and asks if I would like something to drink. Crap.
I try to close my eyes and relax again. Then the pre-flight announcement from the lead flight attendant. Damn.
One more time I try to relax. Then the pre-flight announcement from the captain. Shit.
I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath. And then an announcement about frequent-flyer programs and a credit card offer. Really?!? Ugh!!
I was on the verge of drifting off one more time and decided to force myself to stay awake for the rest of the pre-flight bullshit. Another announcement. Then the safety presentation which included a demonstration of how to use the seatbelt and (God forbid) the flotation devices and life preservers. The plane pulled away from the gate, began to taxi to the runway, hit the thrusters, and away we went. Oh...sweet Jesus...thank you for the sleep I am about to receive...
I had closed my eyes and was literally on the verge of drifting away into la-la-land when the flight attendant taps me on the shoulder and inquires about my choices for lunch and breakfast. I was growing more and more irritated, but since this would benefit me and affect my disposition directly, I didn't mind so much.
Off to sleep I go...ahhhhh. Then the lead flight attendant makes another announcement over the intercom...a complete regurgitation of the safety video demonstration from earlier. Really, dude?!? Well...FUCK ME!
I was literally almost asleep when the captain comes over the mic and announces that we would be experiencing some turbulence at hours three, four, six, and eight of our flight, but we should be able to get some sleep otherwise. I could actually get some sleep if someone were to break the fucking microphones in this plane and find a way to shut these fuckers up! UGH!!!
At this point, I found myself too irritated to be able to drift off asleep immediately. I was past the point of no return and wide awake. I might as well watch a free movie or something...
So I watched a movie. And then the turbulence. And another movie. And then lunch service. And more turbulence. And another movie. And then I read a book on my entire book! And then another movie...and ANOTHER.
As a side note I must say that when you are sleep deprived, nothing can be more infuriating than seeing everyone around you snoring away and sleeping soundly while you suffer with insomnia.
It was at this point that I decided to watch "The Hobbit". A three hour film...surely I would succumb to exhaustion and be able to drift away to dreamland. Unfortunately, the movie was awesome. Of course...just my luck that I would watch an epic film, hoping to become bored and fall asleep, only to become deeply enthralled in the incredible storytelling and cinematic splendor. Then the movie ended...but the story was no where near finished. No one told me it was a multi-movie epic. Upon discovering that I had been ensnared in an epic film with no real closure at the end of it, but instead met with the implied "To Be Continued...", I literally vocalized my frustration...and much louder than I meant to. Mo-ther FUCK-ER!!
I caught myself and looked one was awakened by my outburst.
I decided to calm myself and try to relax in the hopes that a completely quiet mind would lead to some sleep. It was then that I noticed exactly how uncomfortable a seat cushion can be. My ass was aching. My legs were aching. My back was aching. I certainly hope that those things are better at being an emergency flotation device because they certainly sucked at being a comfortable seat cushion.
I decided to stand up, stretch my legs, and quietly walk a lap through the plane in the hopes that it would make the aching go away and that I could finally relax and maybe get some rest.
I stood up, raised and extended my arms above my head, stretched, yawned twice and started my quiet stroll. Ten groggy steps later, I noticed that the air pressure and my upright stance had caused my insides to feel as though I was about to explode. Really. I felt like I was sitting on a fist. It felt like I was about to give birth to a train wreck. I quickly sought out the nearest toilet only to find that it was occupied. Damn it! I found the next nearest one and...that's right...also occupied! FUCK!! I was dancing.
---Have you ever had that feeling of having to shit so bad that your asshole muscles were cramping, seizing, and convulsing like an olympic powerlifter going for the gold medal? That was me!!! I actually began to break out in "shit sweats"!---
Finally, one of the toilets became available...and just in the nick of time! I hurried in, locked the door, and tried to get my pants down before my asshole exploded like Chernobyl. I sat down thinking that I was about to release a major biohazard into the toilet and then...
Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! It was only gas. I farted for what seemed like an eternity. Seriously...I had enough hot air blowing out my asshole to power a sailboat to an easy victory in the America's Cup. And that was it. No stench...and no need to wipe, though I did anyway. Nothing but air.
After gather myself back together, I made my way back to my seat only to find that it was even less comfortable than before. I closed my eyes.
I sat there for at least an hour with my eyes closed, and just as I thought for sure that I had begun to drift off to sleep, the cabin lights began to come up and the announcement was made that breakfast would be served shortly. You have got to be fucking kidding me!!!!
Sleep was not in the cards for me...apparently.
I ate my crepes...or actually a thin pancake rolled up around a few blueberries...and sat quietly in my seat hoping that soon my flight would land and I would at least be able to stand on U.S. soil soon. No such luck. I checked the flight monitor. Two more hours of flight before landing. SHIT! DAMN!

I'm not sure when I fell asleep...but I did. I only woke up because the captain was making the announcements of weather, local time, and U.S. Customs protocol at our destination and speakers sounded like they had been cranked up to full volume. I was seriously considering ripping them out of the ceiling at that point.

A very short time later, we landed. Then it was off the plane and onward to immigration. And then to collect baggage. And then to Customs...where I had to explain to a U.S. Customs agent that I didn't owe taxes on the cigarettes in my bag because I purchased them in Alabama prior to my trip to Australia and simply had not smoked them all. Showed him the tax stamp on the bottom of one pack that clearly read, "State of ALABAMA. Taxes paid." For some reason he didn't understand. Either I was so sleep deprived that I wasn't making any sense to him (not very likely) or this guy was a bit of an idiot who only got his gig because someone owed his family a favor...logic seemed to escape this guy with the same amount of expedience as Forrest Gump running from the Viet-Cong...and I'm still convinced that Forrest Gump would seemingly possess an Einstein-esque level of intelligence by comparison. I think he eventually must have realized that my ability to give a fuck was completely gone and that I might actually risk jail time and karate-chop him in the throat if he didn't shut up about the cigarettes, because he shrugged, signed my declarations form and let me through.
Immigration...cleared. Customs...cleared. Bags re-checked...done. Quick trip outside to have a much needed smoke...done. Off to the gate for the next flight to Atlanta...done.
The rest of my journey home was much like the last couple of hours of the trans-Pacific flight...quietly holding back my internal fits of grumpiness with the smatterings of intermittent sleep thrown in for extra irritation.
My four hour layover in the Atlanta airport was without incident...saving of course, my run-in with a couple of really terrible hotdogs from Nathan's Famous. They may be awesome on Coney Island, but they sucked balls in the Atlanta airport!! I suffered through three bites...burned the shit out of my tongue...and upon deciding that it was pointless to continue eating since the ability to taste had been rendered useless due to the searing of my taste-buds, an upgrade if you ask me because they tasted terrible to begin with, I gathered my carry-on belongings and made my way to my gate...which got changed...and changed again...and changed again. Will the insanity never end?!?! Thank goodness there are several smoking lounges in that airport...

Of course, I eventually got to Birmingham...and saw my sweet wife and one of my daughters waiting for me. Holly looked absolutely beautiful and I was so glad to see her. I had only been away for ten days, but with jet-lag, the sixteen hour time difference, and the difficulties of communicating with regularity being hexed from the get-go, I felt like I had not seen her in months. A long, welcoming and comforting hug, and a greatly needed kiss and I was finally home, in spite of still standing by baggage-claim in the airport.
I loved going to visit Australia...but I loved coming home more!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Trip Down Under

DISCLAIMER... This post may contain some very harsh language. In fact, let's just say that it WILL. If you're easily offended, please stop reading and leave now. Otherwise, don't be bitchin about it afterwards. Enjoy!

So, the guys and I have a few shows in the Land Down Under. It should be a whole lot of fun. It will be my first trip to to say the least, I am very excited about the trip, save for one thing...having to be so far away from my wife and daughters.

- Getting Down Under and the loss of time - Day(s?) One
There is something to be said for feeling like you have lost a whole day. It's an entirely different thing to actually skip one. Allow me to elaborate...
I woke up very early on March 22. I had boarded the first of four flights at 10:30am CST. I flew to Atlanta, where I had a layover of about three hours. I then boarded flight number two at about 4pm EST. I then flew to Los Angeles where I had another layover of about two hours. I then boarded flight number three at approximately 8:40 PST and flew to Sydney, Australia.
It was March 22 all day...throughout all of those flights. However, when my flight landed in Sydney at about 6:30am, it was 6:30am on March 24.  THAT'S RIGHT!! By flying over the International Date Line, I had completely skipped an entire day. One whole day of my calendar that I will never get back...actually that I will never get to begin with! There's only one word that describes all of my emotions regarding this particular sensation...SHIT! There has been a discussion with the guys as to whether or not we will "make it up" on the way home. Personally, I think that the 23rd of March, 2013 just managed to disappear into the ethos. It's as if David Copperfield himself was on the flight and decided to amuse himself by shelling out a little prestidigitation..."Hey everyone! Want to see something cool? Alakazam!! Ta-dah...Now it officially the day after tomorrow!!" REALLY, DUDE?!?! What if I had something important to do specifically on March 23, 2013? Well I guess those plans are forever fucked up!! The way back home an entirely different encounter with the space-time continuum...I will wake up and board a flight that leaves at 6am, I will travel for approximately twenty-six total hours, and arrive at my final destination on the exact same day that I left. Trust me when I tell you that it IS possible!! Oh...I've done the's going to happen!!

The trip getting to Australia was pretty uneventful, as most of my travels involving airports can be. I love people-watching...and airports possess no shortage of people-watching. The airports this day would not disappoint! During one of my layovers, I happened to notice this pair of twenty-something aged women who kept walking back and forth at various intervals in front of my perch at my gate. One of them had what I would call a "million dollar booty". I am not being disrespectful by saying this, I mean the thing probably had a gravitational pull of its own. It was the kind of booty that women like J-Lo and the Kardashians would be envious of. I couldn't help notice it...this was exacerbated by the fact that the woman was wearing really tight yoga pants that had to be two sizes too small, and a tight, pink, "wife-beater" tank-top shirt that had Hello Kitty on it...though it should have said "Hello Titty" because it was barely capable of containing this woman's breasts. I believe in dressing comfortably for air travel, but the outfit this woman had chosen for her day of travel would have raised a few eyebrows of disapproval at even the sluttiest of gyms...and street corners.
I wasn't staring at this woman's ass...I swear. It was kind of like looking at the sun; you get a sense that it's there but you never look directly at it. However, she apparently noticed that I had noticed and at one point stopped and glared at me, almost as if to say, "Fuck off you creeper!" I was unaware of reacting, but I must have because she then gave the look of "Yeah, you...asshole!" I looked away and went on with my random people-watching, but I did happen to overhear the now perturbed woman telling her friend that the creepy guy was staring at her ass, to which her friend replied with this...
"In those pants? What did you think was going to happen? If you don't like it, maybe we should find a place to sit down."
Absolute brilliance and brutal honesty. I love it! However, I sort of got pissed after that...I mean, there's a certain level of personal responsibility that comes with wearing an outfit like that, and this woman was upset that she achieved the desired effect, and then wanted to be bitchy about the fact that some random guy noticed the way her too-tight-for-yoga pants made her ass look...
My wife and I have created a sick hobby of people-watching and joking with each other that some folks obviously don't ever look in a mirror before leaving the house, or if they do, they choose a path of denial and convince themselves that what they have chosen to wear out in public is actually a good idea. C' know you've done it too -seen someone in a public place, wearing something completely inappropriate, and saying under your breath, "What the fuck were they thinking?"
I will go on record now and tell you that I am the last person on earth to give any kind of fashion advice...I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy...always have with it. But I do know what is and is not appropriate for public attire. Obviously, the yoga pants woman had failed to choose wisely, or at the very least had failed to accept accountability for her lack of self-dignity. I've seen professional, long-term, toothless crack whores working a street corner that have a deeper sense of dressing appropriately than this woman...and they certainly would never get pissy about someone noticing that they are dressed like a whore!

So...after four flights, three layovers, dealing with Australian Customs authorities, having not slept very well during the flights over, all while managing to completely skip an entire day, I finally arrived with my comrades in Melbourne. We got to the hotel without incident. However, once at the hotel, I had to wait around for an additional two hours to get into my room...that sucked...a lot. While I waited I figured out that I had not gotten any real rest for well over twenty-four hours. In order to get my internal clock reset to local time and to try to get beyond the jet-lag, I had to keep myself awake for a good long while...going to bed at or after 10pm local time, would help me sleep through the night waking up refreshed and with some sense of normality. To help myself keep awake, what did I choose to do?

---Currently, while I am writing this, I am dead tired. The word exhausted does not even begin to express how tired I am. I feel like total shit. I'm on the verge of delirium and collapse. I'm quite convinced that what I am feeling is very similar to coming down from a two-week cocaine bender, the biggest differences being that my sinus cavities are fully intact, I actually have money in my wallet, and I haven't touched any substances that could be deemed even marginally questionable other than the chicken marsala that I ate on the plane. Currently, I have at least two more hours before I can allow myself to go to bed. Perhaps these two photos can sum it up...

------I miss my wife and daughters terribly. In spite of being very excited to be in Australia, I am already extremely anxious to get back home.
Incidentally, I have so far, found the Land Down Under to be very interesting and beautiful, and the locals here in Melbourne to be extremely friendly, courteous, and helpful. I hope to be well rested in the morning and capable of enjoying it more, and while I am in no hurry to leave immediately, I have already been counting the days, hours, and minutes until I can wrap my arms around my family and give them sweet kisses!

Friday, January 18, 2013

the 2nd Amendment...

All the talks of gun control and the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have inspired this post. In the wake of tragedies our President has tried to introduce some sweeping policies to "help" curb gun violence. In reality, his proposed policies would only serve to infringe upon several basic rights that our forefathers so carefully fought to establish and preserve. Is it really too much to ask to get to the root of the real issues that spawn such tragedies.
So...with all of the gun control talk going on in the media and everywhere, I became inspired to read our Constitution. And then I read it again. And again. I even went and purchased a written copy from the local bookstore. And read it many times again.
The 2nd Amendment gives us (that would be WE, THE PEOPLE, by the way) the right to keep and bear arms. More specifically, it says this:

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It does not specify which kinds of arms are allowed and which are not. It does not specify that only a certain capacity of rounds be allowed. It does not specify that these arms should only be used for hunting or for certain types of sport.

What the 2nd Amendment does say is that WE, THE PEOPLE, shall always have the right to keep and bear arms. This amendment was put into our Constitution for our own protection. Not from each other; not from large animals in the woods; but, rather from the government itself.
Our forefathers had enough sense to realize that things could go horribly awry one day. They had enough sense to see into the future and predict that one day, a person or a group of people could become so engrossed with the pursuit of power, and the pursuit of that power could damage or completely do away with what was so valiantly and courageously fought for back in the 1770's. Our founding fathers had enough sense and sensibility to see the potential for everything going to shit; the potential for the entire country going straight to hell in a hand-basket...and they also had enough sense and sensibility to give WE, THE PEOPLE, a way out.
The 2nd Amendment is the safety net provided to us all, should it become necessary to defend, fight for, and die for our freedoms again. Not just from outside threats to our freedoms...remember, our forefathers fought for their freedom from the tyrannical and corrupt government they were being ruled by at the time.
This right to bear arms does allow for us to protect ourselves. However, it is not just from the small few of WE, THE PEOPLE (the ones that engage in criminal activities) that the 2nd Amendment protects us. The 2nd Amendment also, and in my opinion, most specifically grants us the right to protect our rights and freedoms should our government become overly corrupt and tyrannical and seek to permanently take those freedoms away from us.