Saturday, December 27, 2014


As I write this, I'm sitting at Michelle's place in Sun Valley. In and of itself, that's a good thing. It means that we got some of Joy's back Disability money. Not all of it, but enough to make a pretty radical addition to our lives - a new car. Well, not new new. But a 2013 Ford Focus five-door is nothing to sneeze at, though we very nearly did.

The plan for a new car was simple enough - simply hand over a massive wad of cash to a willing dealer. I'd already chosen a Ford hatchback/wagon, simply because they had the most options in our price range. We'd decided to put down $10,000 as either outright payment or a hefty down payment, because I had one dealership in mind and one only. Sound Ford in the Seattle suburb of Renton runs ads in the Seattle Times that border on the ridiculous - BUY A BRAND NEW FORD FOR $9,000!!!!! - and I was fully intent on getting just that, just stopping to pick up a cop of the Sunday paper and walking into their lot bright and early and saying "I want this car right here" while pointing to the ad. But just to be safe, we looked through their selection of used vehicles as well, picking out a 2013 Focus five-door similar to the one we settled on. We wound up leaving for the big city a day early and spent the night at a hotel in Auburn to be fully rested for the big day, and got there five minutes before they opened.

Did I mention they didn't have an ad in the paper that day? Or that the used car we picked out wasn't there? We bit the bullet and found a very nice Focus that was pretty close to fully tricked out that would cost us $17,599. Add in taxes, fees, and a new warranty (though the car's power-train warranty was still good) and the cost ballooned to nearly $22,000. And did I mention that my credit sucks great big floppy donkey dick? We dug into some of the cash reserves we had and added another $1,500 to the down payment and agreed to a five-year loan that would've cost us $310/month. Between Joy's SS/D and my job, we could handle that. They handed us the keys and told us they let us know who'd handle the loan in a few days. From there, we took a nice walk through Ikea before heading into deepest, darkest downtown Seattle to do some shopping at Uwajimaya. The Seahawks were beating the Forty-Niners a few blocks away, and by the time we finished our shopping at Uwajimaya and the nearby Daiso, post-game traffic was cluttering up the International District, though by the time we made it up to the more Vietnamese neighborhood above the ID on Broadway, you wouldn't have know there was a game going on.

So what were we doing heading towards Capitol Hill on Broadway, pray tell? Picking up my old friend Ed Durgan for a feast at The Crab Pot down on the waterfront. This was when the Focus' awesomeness began to assert itself, as I was able to link my new phone (Michelle's old Galaxy S3) to the car and make calls simply by pulling a lever on the steering column - a welcome-to-the-21st-Century moment if there ever was one. The Crab Pot was awesome - best crab I've ever had, and there were plenty of leftovers for Ed to take to his wife, who was busy with a tenants' meeting in their condo. The car purred along the highways home to PA, easily averaging 37mpg. We even gave the car a name: Sterling, based on its dark-silver-almost-pewter color. This car would be more than suitable for the upcoming trip to Reno to visit Michelle and the kids for Christmas. Things were going pretty smoothly, until I made one tiny little mistake: I told my dad about the loan.

He wouldn't have it, refused to let me pay a loan with a ridiculously high interest rate - remember, my credit sucks big floppy donkey dick - and instead chose to offer me a deal of his own, where he'd assume the final costs of the car, about $8,300 after we called the dealership and dropped the extended warranty. We then drew up a contract where we'd pay him a lower payment at a much lower interest rate for a much shorter period of time, saving us thousands of dollars over time. We agreed, signed, and handed Sound Ford a check the very next day. I just hope they turn off the feature that allows a creditor to shut off our car via its GPS sensor, now that no bank or credit union is involved in financing the vehicle. I shouldn't complain, but this sums up my relationship with my dad pretty easily - reading me the riot act when I need help, then rushing in to white-knight me when I don't. We could have handled the payments, with a plan towards refinancing the loan with out credit union after a year. But this is a lot easier at the end of the day.

We also bought Joy a new laptop, and we plan on buying her a new external DVD drive for it in a few days, as well as a new external hard drive some later on down the road. And Calvin just called to ask us if I'd buy him some vodka before we headed home. We can handle that, so we're getting up early tomorrow to buy him his booze before hitting a casino buffet and heading back home, stopping in Bend to visit her sister.

There's one more obstacle to face when we get home, though - buying a new home. We've been looking at new fifth-wheel trailers, and Joy's had her heart set on one in Sequim, though the remainder of her back Disability money has yet to arrive, which will likely cause us to have to buy a different rig. At least this is the best time of year to buy an RV - dealers are pretty much desperate to unload excess stock this time of year and are offering some great deals. We'll see what happens, I guess. Things are looking up for us - now if only Joy would relax a bit.....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Waiting For The Light To Change

Life hands you lots of challenges, and how you deal with those challenges determines what kind of person you are, and how people look upon you. And just when I think things are getting a little better, another challenge arises. And this time around the challenge is strictly internal. As in on my right side, sorta halfway between my bellybutton and my flank.

I'd experienced pain like this once before, bad enough to put me in the ER twice in one day, about a month ago. I was given a diagnosis of a bladder infection and a pulled muscle - not much more than a pat on the head and a take-two-aspirin-and-call-me-in-the-morning diagnosis. But then a week ago last Friday the pain returned, and I was back in the ER. This time around I was given a remarkably thorough ultrasound exam to go along with a milligram of Dilaudid through an IV, and a diagnosis of gallstones. They gave me prescriptions for Percocet and an industrial-grade stool softener/laxative, and sent me home to sleep off the Dilaudid while Joy went to fetch the prescriptions at Wal-Mart. I didn't make it more than two hours - while Joy waited for Wal-Mart's computers to get over a digital hissy-fit to get the meds - before calling her to get back to the trailer and take me back to the hospital. Another visit to the ER - yay! X-rays and a CT scan didn't do more than confirm that my gall bladder was secreting stones and otherwise going south on me. An internist came down to oversee the case and recommended that I have the damn thing removed, to which I wholeheartedly agreed. An ER nurse told me that I'd be released if I could hold down food, and brought some chocolate pudding for me to enjoy.

And this was when everything went straight to hell.

About two spoonfuls into the pudding, I found myself altogether uninterested in finishing the delightful dessert. I'd already been feeling somewhat nauseous and had a barf bag close at hand, but Joy seemed convinced that I needed a second bag and got the nurse to give her a second bag. I was halfway out of my hospital gown, only another five minutes or so from leaving the ER altogether when the pudding decided that it had no interest in letting me digest it and instead chose to commit what Major League Eating would call a 'reversal of fortune'. I barely had time to grab barf bag #1 before violently retching my guts out, nearly filling the thing. And just as I handed the bag chocolate-tinged vomit to Joy, she handed me the second bag and I obliged her by filling that bag half-full of more chocobarf. Where the fuck was all this coming from? I hadn't eaten so far that day. In fact, I hadn't eaten anything in the last eighteen hours, with only a glass or two of milk in the interim. The nurse and internist conferred for all of about ten seconds, and it was decided that I'd be admitted overnight for observation.

Have I ever mentioned that I've never been admitted to the hospital before? Ever? Even when I went in for hernia surgery, it was just an outpatient procedure where I was back home within an hour of going under the knife. To be quite honest I was scared shitless. It was already early in the evening when I was admitted, and Joy was quietly advised that she'd really have to leave when visiting hours were up at eight. It was one of the longer nights of my life, alone save for nurses checking in on me every few hours. At least I had TV - something I haven't had since June. And because I was NPO - no food or drink, just ice chips - TV was all I was getting for the time being.

I wound up having the consultation with the surgeon who'll remove my gall bladder while in bed, and she told me that her office would call me the following Monday to confirm a date for the surgery (NOTE: Still haven't heard from them - have to call them in the morning), and I was eventually, gradually able to hold down clear liquids, then a low-fat lunch before being set loose that afternoon, with a second set of scripts for Percocet and stool softener/laxatives, and a stern warning that my diet will have to change because of having my gall bladder removed. I'll have to reduce my fat intake, and eat smaller portions. Nothing I've ever really bothered to do before, so it's going to take some getting used to. and I'm not particularly thrilled about it. At least I should be able to get the time off from work. The Holidays are the slowest time of the year of for merchandisers, so much so that my supervisor in Portland actually asked for volunteers to take time off in December. After the surgeon told me that I'd need ten to fourteen days to recover from the surgery (and that I'd given the surgeon a tentative date of December 10th for the surgery), I informed her that I'd be more than willing take to time off after the 10th. I'll have to shoot her a message again soon to find out if I've been approved for that leave. Though if things get worse sooner than that, I may have to have the surgery sooner than that, and to hell with leave requests - my health comes first.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


So here I am. What has it been, nearly three months since I last posted? I've had issues to deal with. There's actually been good news in our lives for a change. But not without sacrifice.

I had to pawn my gear. I did it a few days after my last post, needed gas money for my job with Acosta Sales & Marketing, merchandising Safeway stores overnight in Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Pierce Counties. It was a necessary decision, but it hurt nonetheless. And I had to borrow money from friends and relatives to get keep our heads above water until the paychecks started to roll in. I was able to pay the finance charges on the pawn last weekend, roll it over for another three months - essentially paying Lee and his crew at E-Z Pawn to store my gear until the big money rolls in.

You heard that right - the big money is rolling in, though we're not exactly sure when. Joy finally won her Disability case, and she'll start receiving monthly checks of about $1500 at the end of November. It would be more, but Uncle Sam automatically deducts Medicare from her check. She also qualified for Medicaid, and thanks to another program she won't have to pay more than about $5 for any of her prescriptions. There was a catch, though: she had to take a deal. With her attorney at her side, the judge said (without actually saying it) that either she could take a deal where SSA would backdate her date of becoming disabled to the month of her 50th birthday (October 2010) or appeal until she turned blue in the face. She took the deal. As a result, she's only getting back Disability pay for the past four years, which amounts to somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 - 70k. It put a bit of a crimp into our plans, but only a minor one.

The first thing on our agenda upon receiving that back money hasn't changed, though - we're getting rid of my old truck. It has over 303,000 miles on it, and I recently had to bypass the truck's leaking heater core in order to keep it running. And we're making the rounds of local auto dealership both online and in person, gathering information on new and very, very late-model used Ford hatchback/wagons - and getting a lot of phone calls back from those dealers in the process. As of today, we have dealers from PA, Seattle and even Anacortes calling us on an almost daily basis, even though we told them that we're just collecting information and not able to make a purchase until that money rolls in. And it ought to be coming soon - our attorney already got his $6,000 for representing us.

So sixty to seventy grand, Joy's monthly Disability check and my job - I guess things are finally looking up for us. I just want to get my gear out of hock. I've been itching to get behind my drums for months now. And not necessarily back on the road, either. I just want to play the music I want to play with good friends and have fun every once in a while, and getting paid for it would be nice instead of absolutely necessary. We've already gotten back online, and getting TV here in the trailer is coming in the next month or so. A new trailer is also a serious possibility. That said, Joy and I have been having some fairly passionate discussions about where and what to move into. She wants to buy property out in the middle of nowhere and put a trailer or mobile home on it. My argument to that is that in her condition the last thing she needs to be out in the middle of nowhere - especially without the ability to drive. I've told her that in my opinion it's inevitable that she'll need a wheelchair-accessible apartment or condo that's on or very close to a bus line no matter where we go. She says that she wants to leave her kids something when she leaves this world, hence buying the property. I say that she'll leave her kids something when she leaves this world if she chooses to live in an apartment or condo - money.

Dreams of long vacations, cruises and restaurant binges - they're still there, but greatly tempered by reality. Fortunately for us, neither of us are into the kind of meals that cost hundreds of dollars. The most I ever paid for a dinner for the two of us was $130 (with tip) at Lawry's The Prime Rib in Las Vegas ages ago. It was worth it - a bucket-list meal if there ever was one. But these days I'd rather do the cooking myself, making luxurious meals out of average-at-best ingredients with the help of good recipes, careful technique and lots and lots of patience. The only travel I'm really interested in is seeing our grandchildren. Joy asked me if I wanted to buy a new set of drums, and I said no - I'm happy with what I have, though a new cymbal here and there would be nice, and a new snare would be much nicer.

The light at the end of the tunnel is there before us. We can see it clear as day now. Joy doesn't have to worry so much about so many things so much of the time. We're almost there.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I haven't posted anything in what, weeks? Months? I've been busy. And if you notice the title of this post, you should be able to figure out exactly what's been going on. It hasn't been fun, not by any stretch of the imagination. But at the end of the day we're safe and secure, and that's what really matters. But since you really want to know – or maybe nobody's actually reading this other than the occasional bot or meth addict, and the audience I'm being so conversational and chatty with strictly in my mind – here's what's been happening.

Things got rolling about four months ago, when Joy found out that my now former little brother – more on that later - was sneaking into our room to steal things. At first it was little things, paint brushes and such. But then Joy noticed that some of her painkillers were missing. We went to my mother to let her know what was going on, and she ignored us. Joy demanded that I put a lock on the door to our room, and I found one at the local Wal-Mart. A month later, the little bastard noticed the lock on the door and ran to his mother. I got a text message demanding I remove the lock from her, and barely half an hour later another message came, this one calling me deluded for believing my wife's accusations. A third message simply ordered me to move out. Now.

Did I fail to mention that I was in Nevada at the time, in the middle of a gig with Steppen Stonz at the Atlantis in Reno? They've refused to answer any of my phone calls or text messages since. And with me eight hundred miles away and unable to do anything to rectify the situation, I told Joy that I'd do what I could when I got back to town.

She wound up in the spare bedroom of a friend of ours, and I stayed with her there for a week or so, until my next run to Nevada. I spent that time trying to make arrangements for a more permanent place to stay, and we got my father to agree to buy a fifth-wheel trailer for us that we could move to a local RV park. I'd have to quit the band and get a real job, but by now I was angry enough that I was willing to overcome my general antipathy towards the normal workaday world and join in for however long was necessary. The fun part would be actually finding a job in a county with an effective unemployment rate still around fifteen to twenty percent. But more on that later.

I still had one last run to Nevada to make, and ties to sever as gently as possible. A week in Elko came first at the Red Lion, and that went pretty well, other than our keyboard player Chris deciding to bail on us at the absolute last minute. Jef Derderian came back to help us out for a few days before a new player came in to play the last night of that gig. He's a nice kid from Las Vegas named Dominico – sorry, I don't have his last name. He was another friend of Jef's, continuing that strange line of players that have passed through the band since Mike and Arthur sent Cliff packing. Miguel, Alex, Jef, Chris, and now Dominico. That lack of consistency must be driving Mike and Arthur nuts. And my impending departure wouldn't help things any. After Elko, we had a few days off before heading to Minden for three nights at the Carson Valley Inn. I set up the pop-up trailer and settled in for a few days to recover and plot a strategy to break the news as gently as possible to the guys while we were in Minden.

A string of thunderstorms was passing over Northern Nevada the day I headed up to Minden. In hindsight, I should've recognized the omen for what it was and stayed in Reno. Arriving at the CVI, I found out that I wasn't expected – nor were the rest of us. Simply put, we weren't on the schedule. I did my best to contain my shock and anger and told the manager that came down to inform me of the situation that there had to be some sort of error, and I'd let the rest of the guys know what was going on, and I told them that while I was disappointed, I wasn't angry with them and that they were doing the best they could to help a confused drummer. The manager told me that she'd give Stew Stewart a call, and I told her that I'd call Mike to see if there was some way the gig could be rescued.

Mike didn't take the news well. Y'see, he's very neat and organized when it comes to the band's calendar. Stew had given us this particular week on the schedule back in December – something I'd told the CVI – and he wrote the dates down in his calendar as Stew gave them to him over the phone. He called Stew, and the response he got back was either a study in ignorance or pure chutzpah – we were supposed to be playing John Ascuaga's Nugget that weekend. Either way, his response was total bullshit because the Nugget had closed its cabaret, new ownership deciding to move the sports-book into the cabaret's new location while the space that held Trader Dick's would now become a Mickey Gilley's Honky-Tonk, part of said new ownership's goal to move the Nugget to a country-and-western theme. Regardless of the tack of Stew's line of bullshit, we were still out a gig. And this would continue to haunt me – and it still is, and will likely do so for at least the remainder of the summer.

I retreated back to the pop-up and hunkered down for what would now be two weeks off. After some frantic searching and e-mailing, I found a buyer for the trailer. A polite young Hispanic couple handed me a sum of money that I split with Michelle and Bill before driving away with the trailer the day before I started what would be my last gig with Steppen Stonz back at the Atlantis. I informed the guys of my situation that week, and I think they handled it pretty well. I told them that I didn't want to quit the group, but I had no choice. They let me know that should I ever come back to Nevada, my chair would be waiting for me. Maybe I'll be able to take that offer up someday. But I kinda doubt it.

Upon my return to Port Angeles, my father confirmed that he'd buy us a trailer, though it'd likely be an older one that needed repairs and cleaning. The weekend after I got home, he purchased a particular trailer that an old friend of his had for sale, and he and I did our best to clean it up and make it fit for human habitation. Then we found out that it needed a new refrigerator and some work on the floors do to water damage. At the end of the day, he admitted to me that he should've bought a different trailer – any money he'd saved in the original purchase was long gone, and that he'd spent twice the purchase price on repairing the thing. And after a few fits and starts, we found a place to park the trailer.

We're living in the Peabody Creek RV Park now, just above downtown Port Angeles. And our home is an old Alpenlite 32' fifth-wheel. No cable or internet, but we're dealing with that as best as we can. My drums are stashed at my father's place for safe keeping. And after six weeks of searching, I found a job, working for a company associated with Safeway. Eventually I'll be merchandising stores in five counties, working overnight for $12.50 an hour and mileage. I actually start my orientation tomorrow, a regional manager driving up from Portland in the morning to do the deed. It's still only part-time work, but our bills are modest enough that as little as twenty hours a week should cover things nicely. We'll still require government assistance, but hopefully things will hold at least through the winter. By then, we might be in a much better situation.

Joy's attorney here in town was able to get Social Security to hear her case again – though I think a letter to our local Congressman may have helped as well. The hearing is at the end of September, and a positive result could put a not insignificant sum of back SS/D benefits in our pockets by the time her birthday rolls around, and around seventeen hundred a month in our bank account for the rest of her life. And where we go from there is up to us. Staying in Port Angeles is an option, but not my preferred option. After my mother's decision to believe whatever story her drug-addict criminal subhuman child over the truth of his criminal behavior and kick us out of the house, I chose to disown them – and I've even gone to the extent of removing pictures of myself from their house, systematically writing myself out of their history. And Joy and I have a few other surprises in store for them. Nothing illegal or physically damaging, mind you. But it will be painful to them nonetheless.

I've done my best to remain positive through all this. It isn't easy. But nothing worth having ever is, as the old saying goes. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel now. I have a job. I have a home. I have the woman I love at my side. And with luck the future will become a lot brighter in the near future. I should let go of all the anger I have towards my former family. But it's hard to do so. I want to punish them for their stupidity and arrogance. But I think watching my mother and stepfather descend into senility with only a shiftless lazy punk to look after them, a phony hipster with no desire to do anything other than sponge off of them – I think that's revenge enough for me. I have more important things to worry about. I have a family. I have Joy, her children and grandchildren. I have my friends. I'm still trying to get a local band together, though that may never come to anything really fruitful. I even got the opportunity to play a sort-of reunion with Powerlight last weekend, and that could lead to future gigs if my work schedule allows it.

But what's most important is that I need to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and work hard to maintain what I have in front of me. I have to put the past behind me and move forward.

Friday, June 13, 2014

So Where Will I Sleep Tonight?

One more night before I can start over again. It's been not quite a weeks since I got home from Reno. Things aren't particularly bleak per se, but it ain't exactly beer and skittles here on the ranch. Joy has been holding up as well as can be expected for someone who's basically been forced to couch-surf for the last two months between our friends at the Evergreen Terrace apartments - where we're on the waiting list, by the way - and trying to maintain sanity as best she can. We're both stressed and angry at everything. But we do our best to apologize to each other before we go to bed, wherever that bed may be.

But tomorrow is a new day, and a new and more permanent residence will be waiting for us. Even before I got home from Reno, we'd been scouting out RV parks for the fifth-wheel trailer that Dad bought for us on the cheap only to wind up spending almost double what he paid for it to fix it up - much to his chagrin. We'd pretty much settled on setting up shop at Monroe Estates just east of town, but their insistence that my father co-sign for us pretty much scuppered the deal and sent us scrambling for a new location. On a lark we tried the Peabody Creek RV Park downtown happened to have spaces available and was willing to overlook my temporary lack of employment - more on that later - because of my comparative abundance of cash. In the morning we get the electricity turned on and change our address for quite possibly only a few months.

Why do I say that? Turns out that Joy's attorney has wrangled a new hearing for her Disability case in late September. Given that we're looking at seven years of back SS/D pay handed to us should the judge finally rule in our favor, even the revelation that Joy's medical bills have us $27,000 in the hole is suddenly kinda trivial.

And I doubt that I'll be unemployed all that long. A day or two before I left for Elko, I took a flyer and threw up an application onto Wal-Mart's website for any position that didn't require a lot of customer interaction - mostly graveyard-shift jobs. The day after I pulled into Elko, I got a phone call from the Port Angeles store's personnel office asking if I could come in today for an interview! After explaining the situation to their personnel manager most carefully, he agreed to keep me informed should an opening come up after I got home. The very next morning I got a similar call from the Sequim store's personnel manager, with a similar result. Then the personnel manager from the PA store called me again the following morning, only to remember the conversation we'd had forty-eight hours before and apologize profusely for waking me up from a deep slumber. And then he called me a third time two weeks later as I sat patiently between gigs in my old pop-up trailer - I guess he likes me.

By the way, the trailer is no longer mine/ours. I sold the thing to a nice young Hispanic couple, only for them to wreck the thing on the drive home. And then they had the audacity to demand their money back, claiming that I knowingly sold them a defective vehicle! I offered them my sympathy and nothing else before leaving the scene - we'd towed it down from Washington without incident, after all. I don't think they were being entirely truthful to me. Welcome to Craigslist, kids - everything is sold 'as is', and the moment they handed me the money and I handed them the title, they were on their own. I sold them a functional unit, and they knew what was wrong with it going in. Sucks that they wrecked it, but that's not my problem.

And I'm trying to get a new band started here in town. But it seems that everyone is in survival mode right now - myself included. Nothing is sacrosanct right now, anything and everything can potentially be sacrificed should I need the money. The Wal-Mart job is only minimum-wage, but the hours should be sufficient to keep us in the RV park for the time being. And at my father's suggestion I put in an app at Clallam Transit for a paratransit driver. I think I could do that. And there's always fast-food work or some other sort of temp or part-time job should Wal-Mart not be enough. I just have to bear down for the time being and get us across the finish line - which with any luck should be sometime this fall. I just have to do what I have to do, and hold on for the time being.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Now Is The Time To Let Go

I'm sitting backstage at the Atlantis as I start to write this. I'm miserable and in no small amount of pain – my cracked and broken wisdom teeth have been a constant ache for the last few weeks now, and I'm eating Tylenol like candy. In a certain way I have come to understand why Joy must endure on a daily basis, albeit no doubt magnified by an order of several magnitudes. One thing about going home for good is that I'll finally be able to see a doctor and dentist on a regular basis, even if I may have to drive all the way to LaPush to see Joy's dentist at the Quileute Tribal Clinic.

I know what you're thinking – what did he just say? Going home for good? Yeah. I have to give it up. This isn't something that just happened the other day – and as I write this my current employers have no real idea that I'm about to drop the hammer on them. I wanted to tell them sooner, but this particular trip to Nevada has been fraught with personnel problems, cancellations, and just bad fucking luck. And this whole chain of events didn't even start when I left Port Angeles for Elko, Nevada. It actually started about a little over a month prior to that.

Before I go any further, I need to make something absolutely clear: Macdonald Craig Robertson is a useless little piece of shit and I hope the little bastard dies painfully of dick cancer. Why do I suddenly hate and despise my half-brother to such an extreme? Well, I'm going to tell you.

I'm not really sure what his deal with me is. I've known for many years that he hates me. In fact, I've actually had people come up to me – complete strangers – and ask me if I was Mac's brother. When I told them that I was, on four separate occasions these people told me the same story, that they'd seen him at an open mic show the other night, introducing a song by dedicating it to me. About how much he hates me. I'm not totally sure why he hates me, to be totally honest. Aside from your standard big brother – little brother dynamic, I have no clue why he hates me so much. And he's never had the nerve to actually confront me about it. But he does like to confront my wife about it, that's for damn sure. And he's been doing this, what – the last two, three, maybe four trips of mine? He'll start shit with Joy while I'm gone, then plead innocence and try to be all buddy-buddy with me when I get back into town.

A few months back, Joy noticed that things were disappearing from our room. Nothing big, but it was still plenty annoying to her. Paint brushes seemed to be disappearing, then reappearing for some odd reason. She confronted not only Mac about it, but my mother as well. They told she could leave if she didn't like it, and that's exactly what happened. She spent a month at the apartment of our friend Delane, and she told me that she'd only come back if I put a lock on our door. I told her that we'd get around to it. Then she found that some of her oxycodone pain meds were missing. I got the lock for the door. I went to my mother about it, and she blew me off. I told her that this was serious – theft of prescribed narcotics is a Federal offense. She told me that she'd talk to him about it. I'm pretty sure now that she didn't. I'm pretty sure now that she doesn't give a shit.

Well, she started to give a shit about two months ago, when I was playing a gig here at the Atlantis. They noticed the lock on the door, and lost their fucking minds about it. I received a text message from her demanding that I remove the lock. I reminded her that we suspected Mac of stealing things from our room. I got another text telling her that I was deluded, then another telling me to pack up and leave. Apparently not letting my ignorant little shithead brother walk into my room whenever he wanted to, letting him take whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to, that was some line of death that I crossed. She hasn't spoken to me since, and has instead only sent harassing text messages to Joy while I'm out of town demanding we get our things out right now, knowing full well that she couldn't do it herself. And here's where things get crazy. I'm not allowed in the house any longer – supposedly I'm a threat to their safety now! I'm beginning to wonder what Little Man is whispering in his mother's ear to influence her decrees.

Note that I said his mother – not our mother. Since they seem dead-set on casting me out of their lives, I've decided to do the same – and worse. I plan on disowning them. Linda Marie Robertson chose – likely at the behest of her son – to play favorites with her children, and pit them against one another. Her daughter Alex - a brainless twit if there ever was one, who uses her looks to get what her tiny intellect can't – decided to put me on blast on Facebook, trying to reinforce any claims that her brother was innocent and that I was delusional for accusing him of stealing Joy's meds. I told them to enjoy the rest of their lives without me, and held back letting her know just how much damage I can do to them. There's so many things I can say about them all. And I plan on telling all. To the police. And then I'll collect the things I need and walk away from them. Forever. I've taken the pictures of my family out of their house, because they don't deserve to know about my family any more. And out of pure malevolent spite, I found the baby pictures of my older sister and myself, and I turned the picture of myself around. When I get back to Port Angeles, I'll be collecting that picture, and any others I choose to take from her photo albums – and I'll just walk away with them. They chose to be spiteful to me for no particular reason, and I plan on returning that spite a hundredfold. Don't talk me out of it. It's too late for talk.

The only thing keeping me up at night is why Little Man is doing what he's doing. I think that it all boils down to his massive ego and his equally massive hatred towards me. In his sick little mind, this is all about proving that his dick is bigger than mine, and that he's somehow the better man than me. He didn't finish high school – didn't even get his GED. Of Linda's four children, I'm the only one with a college degree and without a drinking/drug habit, or still recovering from that habit, as my older sister Julie is. The bitter irony is that Little Man is doing all this in order to maintain his easy, lazy lifestyle – sponging off of his mother, occasionally working under the table with his alcohol, drug and dementia-addled father, and going over to harass poor Gordon and his friends until they can't deal with him and his monstrous ego any more. With me walking away, he might think himself finally victorious over me. But I'll have the last laugh – who'll take care of his parents with me gone? Julie is loath to spend time there because her mother still drinks heavily. Alex is a selfish twit with the IQ of a gravy boat. And with me out of the picture, that leaves Little Man to change his parents' diapers. Oh, and he'll have to get over his own hipster bullshit and go get a driver's license – how else is he going to get them to their doctor's appointments or to the store, on the handlebars of his bike? I should really thank Little Man for doing this, actually – I have no desire to change the diapers of a pair of ungrateful invalids.

But where does that leave me, you ask? Well, Joy and I were staying with friends for a while, until my father decided to actually help me when I needed it and not read me the Riot Act over it. He bought a.... well, let's be honest. He bought a cheap fifth-wheel trailer for Joy and I to live in until her Social Security case is settled. After that, we're out of here. But until then, I have to do the one thing I really didn't want to do – quit playing music full-time and go work some normal job for the foreseeable future. As I write this, Mike and Arthur still don't know what's going on or what I'm about to tell them. I don't want to tell them I'm leaving. But I have no choice.

I wanted to tell them when I got to Elko. But what I found out when I got there gave me pause. Steppen Stonz' keyboard player at the moment had abruptly quit the band via text message. We knew Chris Williams would be leaving for most of the summer – his Tahoe Reggae band was going on a European tour this summer – and a previous keyboardist would cover for him until he got back. But Chris took the bitch's way out, and Mike and Arthur were nowhere near ready to be told further bad news. Jef Derderian came back to cover for four of the five nights in Elko, then a new guy came in, an Italian kid from Vegas named Dom who like Chris and Jef is a trumpet player and a recent graduate of UNR's music program. Dom seems like a nice enough kid, and I hope he can provide some stability for Mike and Arthur – they need all they can get.

I genuinely like playing in Elko. The Red Lion is a nice hotel, the food in the buffet is good, and the people are plenty nice. I'm glad that they'll continue to bring Mike and Arthur back with Dom and whoever replaces me – they really need the work. What sucks about Elko is the drive back to Reno. Five hours of driving into a constant 30mph head wind is murder on my gas mileage. But at least I got to spend a few days off visiting with Michelle and Bill and the grandbabies. Can't really call them babies any longer, since Cody is ten and Ellie nine. But it was a pleasant few days until I pulled up stakes and headed south for a three-nighter at the Carson Valley Inn.

Which never happened.

Thanks to some.... unforeseen error, it turns out that we weren't even on the schedule at CVI. I did my best to keep from screaming as a manager apologized to me for the inconvenience of having to drive in from Reno for nothing. I called Mike to tell him what was going on, and if he was mad in Elko, he was really pissed off now. Both Mike and CVI management were wanting to talk to Stew Stewart about whether or not some error had been made, but apparently he was.... unavailable. And the story he told Mike as to why a gig he'd given us in January suddenly wasn't available was something right out of science fiction – according to him we were supposed to be playing at John Ascuaga's Nugget this particular weekend. Which was an utter load of bullshit because anyone who hadn't just fallen out of a tree knew that the Nugget no longer had live entertainment. In fact, I'm pretty sure that we were the last band to play their cabaret back in March before they closed it in preparation for it to be torn down and their sports book moved into its place.

So now I couldn't tell Mike and Arthur that I was quitting the group while we were in Minden. From there it was back to the trailer in Sun Valley for another week-and-a-half. I've put the trailer up for sale, and hopefully I'll have it sold before I return to Port Angeles.

And then I ran out of money.

And then I ran out of propane.

I'm not looking for sympathy – that's just what happened. And I just had to deal with it. And now I'm in bed at the Atlantis bandhouse, found out earlier today that the band that had been here previous to us had totally trashed the joint. Dog shit and piss in the carpet. Diarrhea in the bathtub. Broken faucets and generally shitty disrespectful behavior. I couldn't willingly be in a band that treated their lodgings like that. Fortunately for me, I won't have to find out about that because this band will likely never play in Reno again after this last weekend. But now it's four-thirty in the morning, and I need to get some sleep. I'll finish this later.

I tend to ramble when I tired. Come to think of it, I just tend to ramble period. Got maybe four hours of sleep before my teeth and jaw started to ache again. Got an offer for the trailer, but only a thousand dollars. If I wasn't desperate, I'd have turned it down. But I'm not in any real position to turn down money. So I think I'll take the offer, if only to get it off my hands and get my bank account back into the positive. This trip has been gawd-awful from the jump-off, and I just need to minimize losses, stanch the bleeding as it were.

I'm not looking forward to telling Mike and Arthur of my intentions. They've been good to me for the last five years. Put up with me. But I've got more important things on my plate now, and I have to move on and shoulder a burden that in some respects I've been avoiding all my life. I admit to my flaws as a person – I always have. And those flaws aren't something that can be eliminated with a wave of the hand. But I found it funny that when my father decided to help me and purchase the fifth-wheel for me, he said that he 'didn't approve of my lifestyle' – what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I'm sober – not a recovering alcoholic like he and my sister – I never started to begin with. I've never drank a significant amount of alcohol in my life. I've managed to hold my marriage together when it might have been easier to just walk away. I've found it funny that my one marriage has lasted longer than either of my father's – perhaps longer than both of them combined. What is it about my 'lifestyle' that he finds objectionable? Sure I haven't made a lot of money at this game, but I'm not a drug addict. My addictions are far cheaper than any drug. As I once told my wife, my Xbox 360 was a whole lot cheaper than booze, drugs, and hookers. And it's a whole fuck of a lot cheaper than divorce.

Okay, so I said it – I'm done with Reno. Will I come back? I simply don't know. We've pondered the possibility of returning to Reno once Joy's SS/D case is settled to our satisfaction. That kind of money – well over $100,000 in back payment and nearly $1,800 a month for the remainder of Joy's life – would allow us to find a small house or mobile home or even another, larger RV just about anywhere in the western United States. We've thought about staying on the Peninsula, though I think at the end of the day we both want to get away from there. I told her that wherever she wanted to go was fine with me. And Michelle is actually expecting us to come back to Reno, because she made the mistake of telling her kids that we'd move back there. At least with the SS/D money we'd be able to buy the things we'd need to make Joy more comfortable in Reno. As in solar panels to help defray the cost of electricity so she doesn't have to swelter in summer and freeze in winter. But we've also considered several locations in Oregon and Eastern Washington, and I think that those are more likely stops for us than Reno.

{June 2, 1230hrs} I just broke the news to Mike and Arthur. They didn't like it – how could they not like it? But they understood. And they appreciated that I was willing to break the news to them face to face instead of over the phone or Facebook. I just worry that I might be the straw that broke the camel's back, even though they told me that it just wasn't the case.

Now that the weight is off my back, or at least that part of the weight, I can try to make some sort of assessment of the time I've spent here in Nevada. On and off it's been eleven years or so since I first started coming down here. I've made some great friends here. And I've lost some friends here as well. I've had some great times here. But I've been miserable here – I'm miserable right now. I can't shake the feeling that I've somehow dealt a mortal blow to Mike and Arthur. Empirically, intellectually I know better. But in the not-quite five years since I started working with these guys, they've been through five keyboard players and they're just starting in on number six. They have four weeks until their next gig – playing Fourth of July weekend here at the Atlantis – which at least in theory is plenty of time to find a new drummer, and hopefully one who can sing. But while they understand and accept my decision, they'd still rather have me around, and the door is always open for me to return.

But I'm frustrated. Angry. I don't want to do this. I don't want to walk away from everything that defines me as a person. But now it's time for me to find other ways to define myself. But I still have music in my life. I have friends who will no doubt be happy to have me back in town and find use for my talents. But that will have to be around a full-time job. There isn't much available, but I already have options. In all likelihood I'll either have a job waiting for me when I get back to Port Angeles, or I'll be employed within a week. But working a regular job isn't me. It just isn't. I guess that I'll have to make it me, though. It's time for me to hunker down and just plod through until we can get Joy's SS/D case settled. How long that may be is anyone's guess. So I have to bite my tongue, be polite when I'd otherwise be truthful no matter the damage it may cause.

And I need to try to somehow enjoy the time I have left here in Reno. Since I have no idea when I'll be back – if ever – I might as well do my best to be positive and make the proverbial lemonade from lemons. Tell my friends that I appreciate their friendship, my bandmates and fellow musicians that I appreciated working with them and alongside them. Smile when I want to cry or scream, then return home to the one I love above all others as I move on to the next chapter of my life. There may be another act yet to play here in Reno, I'll hold out that hope. But hope doesn't get the rent paid. I just have to do my job, whatever that is, and continue moving forward. I was dealt a serious blow by the betrayal of my own family against me from within. But nothing can stop me. Nobody can stop me. I will continue forward, because that's the only direction I can go.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don't Fuck With Me....

Or else the truth comes out.

For those of you that read my old blog, remember Mark Connolly? The allegedly high-functioning methhead who tried being the lead singer of Dirty Joe before abandoning the group after one rehearsal on the grounds that we weren't reliable? Well, for those of you that don't, refresh your memory here. Well, he decided to resurface for reasons unbeknownst to me.

Yesterday (well, earlier today AFAIC) Joy and I were walking into the library here in Port Angeles. There were a few people outside the library's front door enjoying a brief burst of afternoon sunshine. One of them was I guy I recognized from the local karaoke circuit. And there was another guy that I vaguely recognized, but I couldn't remember where from. This little fellow seemed to recognize me though, and he wasn't pleased. He began to threaten me, said that he'd heard about what I'd thought and said of him, but I couldn't figure out why he was talking to me so. Then I remembered that he was the meth addict that wanted to be the lead singer of Dirty Joe. I told him that he could take his threats and put them squarely where the sun doesn't shine, because drug addicts don't particularly frighten me. Especially ones that are quite literally rotting away from drug use and disease. As in the leg he was missing.

He claimed that he would sue me for slander - go ahead and try. You see.... well, go read the original post. In order for something to be considered slanderous, it has to be malicious and more importantly false. Read the post - everything I attributed to him was the actual, unvarnished truth. And that's something I'll stand by until the day I die. The truth hurts, Mark.

Mark Connolly may no longer be addicted to meth now, but he was then - he told me so himself. That is an unassailable fact. His behavior was erratic enough then, and it's still erratic now. And violent. And in an ironic twist, a friend of ours that we're staying with - long story, more on that later - told me that she'd been introduced to him some seventeen years ago, and in that one brief encounter had deduced that he was a potential threat to her and her daughter and told the mutual friend that had introduced them to remove him from her sight post-haste.

At the end of the day, I could really care less about Mark Connolly and his hollow threats. He's a bum, a drug addict (though his current status could only be determined with a blood or urine test and I have no interest in pursuing that), and otherwise a waste of space. Considering that I haven't laid eyes on him in about three years, I see the likelihood of encountering him again to be minimal at best. And considering that I have no interest in laying eyes on him again unless it's through bulletproof glass, I see the likelihood of encountering him again to be that much smaller.

Oh, and before I consign him to the dumpster of history yet again, one last thing: threatening someone with violence is a crime. And doing so via the Internet is a Federal offense.

Goodbye, Mark. I don't have time to play. I have a life to live - clean and sober.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Test Of Love

I love my wife.

Let me say that again - I love my wife. Joy is the center of my universe. But traveling with her is a pain in the ass. How much so? Let me explain. My most recent gig in Nevada was at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, a place that's rapidly becoming a place I don't want to play for reasons that I'll explain later. But even though it was late February and she doesn't handle winter well at all any more, Joy wanted to come with. Under normal circumstances I'd leave for a Thursday-through-Saturday gig late Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning, within a few hours on either side of midnight. Joy wanted to leave on Monday, and stay in Bend to visit with her sister and her family. We stayed there that night and the next, and I'm pretty sure that I did all the cooking - not to mention buying most of the food I cooked. And then there was stopping for meals along the way. And did I mention that it was snowing in Central Oregon, and that we slept in an unheated trailer those nights?

But we made it into Minden, albeit freezing our asses off. I can't wait to ditch the truck and get a car that has a working heater. Among other things. I schlepped everything into our room, then took a moment to recover before taking the truck over to the casino's main entrance to load in my gear. But that didn't happen, as the Wednesday-night solo act decided to leave his stuff onstage at the end of the night and come pick it up in the morning. Which left us to wait until the next morning to finally set up and soundcheck.

Now I know you're asking yourself, why is Joe suddenly not so thrilled to play at CVI? Well, it's basically because I'm playing dead drums there. A chain of events that happened at a previous engagement there put me in the position of having to turn my drum module completely off in order to get someone off my back who shouldn't have been on my back in the first place. And Mike keeps telling me "oh, your drums are really cutting through the PA" - oh, horseshit. You can hear my cymbals just fine. But my drums are dead for a reason - to reduce stage volume. That's why I have them triggered and run the module into the PA, so they can be heard. But since the module is off - this time around I didn't even bother unpacking it - nobody's hearing anything other than my cymbals. And this is what's putting me in such a good mood. Having Joy to come back to at the end of the night is a million times better than coming back to an empty hotel room, but sometimes even that isn't comfort enough.

And then there's all the stuff she wants and needs to bring with her. And with those wants and needs, she winds up carrying nearly twice as much stuff as I do. That takes up space and weight in the back of my truck - and the front. She winds up spending the trip pretty much locked into one position because of all the things she just has to have with her in the cab of the truck. But true love is being able to put up with your beloved's issues.

After finishing up at CVI, we headed north to spend a day or two with Michelle and the grandbabies - can't really call them babies any more, now that Cody is ten and Ellie close to her ninth birthday. One problem, though - we kinda forgot to let them know we were coming. And with staying for two nights, it meant having to set up the trailer. At least Joy didn't go bonkers that the damn thing is falling apart. And we made sure to stop on the way home to get some Voodoo Doughnut goodness in Portland.

And I found out that I'll be turning around here in a little while for another weekend. Turns out that the Nugget is still having bands in the cabaret for a little while longer - originally we'd been told that our contract had been cancelled - but the original contract was for this weekend just past, and we were informed that we'll be playing this upcoming weekend instead. I wound up leaving my drums in my storage unit in Reno for just this reason. And Joy wanted to come with me at first, but then she changed her mind. Or more accurately, getting sick right after we came home changed her mind for her.

True love is being able to put up with your beloved's issues. But it's also her being able to put up with mine. And that's why I love her.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Being At Home Is No Proof Against Being On The Road

I am constantly in motion. Even if I'm sitting on the couch at home as I am now, just pecking away at my laptop's keyboard, I'm always in motion - or maybe it's just the shakes from too much caffeine. No, seriously. I'm always in motion, going somewhere or getting ready to go somewhere. Let's face it, Port Angeles is an isolated community, and going anywhere is always a chore. Getting paid to do it makes it easier, but not as much as you might think.

Case in point: After another drab week at the Atlantis, I froze my tuckus off driving home, this time rolling home through the Sierras of California because old Calvin wanted me to buy him some liquor. Thanks to All-Star Liquors of Holbrook, CA for helping me keep the old fart soused. Later on in the trip I came to something of a revelation, discovering the true meaning of irony as I pulled off of I-5 to eat a messy Chipotle burrito in a parking lot in Lacey, and only after finishing said burrito did I look up and realize that I was in the parking lot of a Taco Time.

And after dropping Calvin's liquor for him, he made me an offer I couldn't really afford to refuse, asking me to come back down the following Friday to play drums for Powerlight for a show at a bar in Federal Way whose name I shall not mention. This was going to be something of an all-star show for the band, as old pals Curtis Seals and John Studamire would come out of the woodwork to play keyboard and bass for Calvin and Jackie. Joy wasn't feeling all that well, but decided that she just couldn't let me travel back down to Tacoma by myself.

And she also wouldn't let me leave on time, either - forgetting this and that, she wasn't fully ready to leave town until just past four in the afternoon. And did I forget to mention that this show was supposed to start at seven? We made it to the bar at just a tick past six, and I wasn't worried about much anything. Y'see, Calvin told me that I didn't have to bring much anything, other than my sticks and my suit because he was setting up his Roland TD-8 electronic kit for this particular show. His hope was that this show would potentially lead to a house-band gig that would nicely supplement my income from Steppen Stonz, playing anywhere from two to four nights a week a couple of weeks out of every month. That said, hope doesn't feed the cat. And neither does what I saw as I walked into the bar.

There was nothing set up on the bar's tiny stage. NOTHING.

Needless to say, I was a bit confused. I got back into the truck, and Joy and I went over to Calvin's house - he wasn't home. Curtis was there, however - and he seemed completely unaware that there was a gig to be played tonight. Joy and I both called Calvin's celly, and he called Joy back first for some reason. She handed me the phone, and he informed me that the gig had been cancelled the day before. He apologized to me for his failing to contact me about this little oversight, and asked me to stick around for a few minutes while he and Jackie returned from the grocery store to talk a little business. There was a little business talked, and he gave me twenty bucks to help defray my gas costs before we left for home.

After a quick dinner at a Taco Time in Tacoma (Joy is just obsessed with Taco Time - I can't stand their food), we headed north to explore a place I'd only heard about in the last few days, The Point Casino just outside Kingston, just a few miles past where we'd turn off to take the Hood Canal Floating Bridge back to the Olympic Peninsula. Owned and operated by the Port Gamble branch of the S'Klallam Tribe, The Point is a nice enough place with a nice little live-music venue they call The Boom Room. Too bad that the band playing there last night sucked out loud - two singers with varying degrees of talent trying to sing Pearl Jam together made me want to storm the stage and start stabbing people. Joy and I met their drummer, and he seemed a nice enough guy, though he clearly wasn't happy at having to play quietly. At least he dressed professionally - if only the rest of the band looked as good. I texted Curtis (can't text Calvin's celly for some reason), said 'we should be playing here'. We'd have owned the place. After leaving Kingston, Joy bascially browbeat me into taking her to the Central Market in Poulsbo before we headed home so she could browse a while and pick up a few snacks, and we didn't make it home until well after three in the morning.

Pulling up to the house, I wrote my mileage into the logbook - just over 250 miles for pretty much nothing. Forty bucks in gas down the tubes, and the twenty Calvin gave me went to the dinner in Tacoma. But we talked business, and that made the entire trip tax-deductible. And looking on the bright side, I won ten bucks at The Point. I wouldn't mind playing there, or even just going back to dine and/or gamble there. But I can't afford wasted trips like that. And I don't think I'll be playing local gigs here in PA anytime soon. The silence that's descended upon this town after Ron DeFrang's passing is deafening.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year, New Town, Same Old Me

I've had a few days now to digest my last gig, my first out in Elko at the Red Lion Inn. It wasn't bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. In all truth it was a best-of-times-worst-of-times gig.

The first thing that you have to deal with is just getting there. It isn't hard at all, the 290-mile distance from Reno a relative pittance compared to the 750 to 800 miles I drive getting to and from Nevada in the first place. But it's a tedious drive, and it never helps when the vehicle you're driving has a blown-out heater core and it's cold outside as a witch's tit in a brass bra. I broke up the boredom with lunch in Winnemucca at Winners Casino, a place I played once or twice back when I was in Powerlight.

Leaving Winnemucca, the drive became hilly. And much to my surprise, I was actually going up in elevation. Since all this is taking place in what's known as the Great Basin, and all the rivers in said basin drain into the Great Salt Lake rather than to an ocean, like an idiot I figured that the drive from Reno to Elko would eventually wind up going downhill somewhat - silly me for thinking that. Elko (5,066ft.) is actually higher in elevation than Reno (4,506ft.), and there was a pass along the way that was over 6,100ft. I guess the downhill part starts after Elko.

The Red Lion itself is a very nice place, the casino and restaurants at the east end of the complex and a long chain of hotel room buildings leading off to the west. Our rooms were in the very last of these buildings, of course. I look at it as being able to get a little exercise to and from the stage and the buffet. Oh, yes - the buffet. The Red Lion gives the bands coupons good for a trip a day through the buffet in their 24-hour Coffee Garden restaurant for every day of the band's engagement. And the staff there were so nice to us. I really can't stress this enough - they were incredibly nice to us.

The stage - larger than any we play on save the Nugget's - is tucked away along the casino's south wall, right next to Aspen's Bar & Grill, the casino's fine-dining option. I'd been warned in advance that we'd need to keep our volume in check because of Aspen's, and Mike and Arthur told me that they'd also been warned about this before telling me that the last time they'd played the Red Lion, the stage and its locality were actually closed off from the rest of the casino as a cabaret called Club Max. Loading in and out was easy enough thanks to a disguised stage door that led off to a small but sufficient dressing room, a bathroom, and most importantly a back door where we could bring in our stuff without disturbing the casino.

If there was any problem we had during the engagement, it was running our sound. The stage has no PA of its own, so we used ours, and it was a struggle dialing it in just right. It wound up taking most of the gig to get the sound where everyone was getting what they wanted and nobody had to scream out drink orders and so on. We were constantly tinkering with the sound, even working after one gig was over to completely re-do the PA's alignment and get everything just right. Mike was constantly worried that the Red Lion's pit bosses and managers would label us as being 'difficult' because the sound wasn't right and that we weren't doing anything to fix it. I think we showed them that 'difficult' was the last thing we were.

If only it wasn't so damn cold out. I spent most of my time in my hotel room, which to be quite honest was probably the best one I'd ever stayed in since I started working here in Nevada. Very, very comfortable beds, a fridge (which I took full advantage of) and a microwave (which I never did use), and a nice big flatscreen that made Skyrim look very nice. If only the hotel's wi-fi was a little more consistent....

But I was in a funk most of the time we were there. Mike finally confirmed the remainder of our schedule, and a six-night run at the Atlantis that I'd originally been told was later on in the month was actually a week sooner, forcing me to abandon plans to drive home and instead set up the trailer for a week before schlepping over to the Atlantis' bandhouse. And things didn't get any better when I made my way over to the local Wal-Mart to buy a new card for my cellphone. For a town roughly the same size as Port Angeles, I was stunned to find it was closed at approximately 1am - everything was closed! Driving back to my hotel in an utterly foul mood, I noticed an Elko PD cruiser watching the road in front of me, and I was halfway tempted to flag him down and ask him if there was anything in Elko open all night that wasn't a casino.

And daytime only made things worse. The Wal-Mart looked for all the world like it had been looted recently. And heading back to the electronics department to get my phone card only revealed that not only were they out of the cards I needed, they hadn't gotten any shipped in to the store in two weeks. Really? Seriously? They're on a major Interstate corridor for fuck's sake, with large metropolitan areas four hours in each direction and a regional distribution center less than four hours away, about fifteen miles east of Reno! The customer-service rep in Electronics didn't even seem to care all that much about the minor meltdown I was having over their inability to keep small easily transportable items in stock. Let's just say that I don't ever want to go back to that ghetto-ass Wal-Mart ever again. I'll drive to Winnemucca if I have to. Leave it to Joy to save my bacon. She bought the card for me in Port Angeles, then IM'd me the card's PIN number via Facebook so I could reactivate my phone.

As for the shows themselves, we started on New Year's Eve. Enough said. Packed out, everyone there ready to party. After that? Ghost town. We kinda expected it, I know I did, but it's still pretty jarring to play the next two nights to precisely nobody, and only a handful of people each on Friday and Saturday. It was to be expected, of course. It's the end of the holidays, and everyone is physically, mentally, financially tapped out. But it's no fun playing to an empty house no matter where you are. But things could be worse, I guess. We have a new keyboard player in the group, and Chris is a piscitarian-vegetarian. And good fish isn't easy to find in Elko. But he coped admirably, and seemed to actually enjoy working with us. I think he'll be a fine addition to the band if he can keep it together.

And what have I been up to with my week off? A whole lotta nothing. My buddy Josh Lease invited me to take in a show this evening just past, but I really wasn't in the mood for a bill of fair-to-middling hardcore bands. And I really wasn't in the mood for the kind of audience this particular type of band attracts. In so many words, I fucking hate straightedge kids. Little snot-nosed assholes that think they're better than everyone else who love picking fights with anyone who doesn't look like them. And I sure don't look like them - never mind that for all intents and purposes I invented them. The last time Joy and I had to deal with straightedge kids, they made life miserable for us at a show headlined by Tennessee metalcore meatheads Whitechapel, flying every which way out of the pit to start fights with anything in sight. I spent the entire headline set standing in front of Joy as she sat in her wheelchair, hoping to prevent any little dumbasses from injuring my wife further with their mindless idiotic rage. Let's just say that my mind is made up when it comes to straightedge kids - they're idiots.

So I stay in my trailer - and did I mention that the furnace isn't working? Fortunately we left a portable propane heater in the trailer for just such emergencies, and while it doesn't heat the entire trailer, it heats the area I stay in well enough, and actually uses less propane than the furnace. So it's a fair enough trade, I guess. Two more nights in the trailer after this, then I can check into the bandhouse on Monday. And that day can't come soon enough. I need a shower.

Did I think the gig in Elko went well? I sure hope that the Red Lion thinks that it did. If not, we're down to playing only two rooms - the Atlantis and the Carson Valley Inn. And that's not viable for me. I did my best in Elko, we did our best in Elko. It's up to the suits to decide that, I guess. Mike seems reasonably sure that we'll be back in Elko soon enough, and I hope that he's right. My dad has offered to help me get a job at Clallam Transit if I find myself in the position of having to leave the band. But that's something I don't know if I'm ready to do. I don't want to give this up, even though common sense says that I should have done so a long time ago.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

That Was The Year That Was

To be honest, I'm glad 2013 is over. It wasn't a good year. Everything around me seems to be falling apart - my life, career, hell my truck is falling apart. But I soldier onward with grim determination to find out if what little optimism I have is actually based in any sort of truth. That said, let's look at my personal highlights from the year now past - if there were any.

Honestly, there weren't many, and even then they were more glimmers of hope than anything concrete. Joy and I found a lawyer to oversee her seemingly endless battle with the Social Security Administration, and we almost immediately began to see results. But we're still trapped in wait-and-see mode, our lawyer now wondering aloud if the judge that heard her case previously may have intentionally buried her case to keep her from being awarded what could potentially top six figures.

My beloved laptop took a shit on me a few months back, but thanks to the fact that people tend to give me money in lieu of Christmas presents, the nice folks at Best Pawn in Carson City were able to hook me up with the nice Toshiba Windows 7 laptop I'm writing this post on. One hitch, though: this beast still thinks my name is Homer. I think I can fix it. That, and as soon as I get home I'll be taking this beast to a tech to see if I can get it souped up a little.

How my truck holds together is beyond me. The heater core's been nothing but a sinkhole of antifreeze as of late, and with as many miles as I drive it's only a matter of time before it seizes up on my once and for all. I'll miss that truck when it goes, but only for as long as it takes for me to replace it. Joy's told me more than once that the truck is the first thing to go once she gets her Disability case settled, and I've pretty much settled on heading into Seattle to buy a compact five-door - places like Sound Ford in Renton can hook my up with a nice new Ford Fiesta hatchback that's bigger than my old Suzuki Swift and gets a whole fuck of a lot more miles per gallon than my truck for less than $10k.

Joy's health is actually improving - I think. Her doctors truly care about her well-being, and they seem to finally be getting a handle on her health issues. Though the battle is far from over, I can see her getting better. I wish I could say the same about myself. I know my health is in decline. Let's just say that years without any sort of proper healthcare have taken their toll on me. And I'm thanking the spirits, totems, rocks, trees - anything and everything, really - that healthcare reform will finally give me the opportunity to take care of myself. I need that help desperately if I want to be there to take care of Joy.

Now if only the band were doing well. We've actually finished 2013 and started 2014 with a new gig here in Elko at the Red Lion Inn. But we've lost two gigs at the same time. We'd gotten the opportunity to return to the Carson Station in August, but we learned that we wouldn't be getting any more bookings there in the future due to their live-entertainment budget being cut to where they can only afford live music one night a week. We don't think that's going to last for very long, and either they'll come back (we hope) or they'll eliminate live entertainment altogether.

And then there's the Nugget. It was something of a shock to us all that it was announced that John Ascuaga's Nugget had been sold to an investment group led by former Peppermill executives. We tried to keep our hopes up, but the reality here in Nevada has always been that whenever a casino changes hands, the first thing that tends to happen is that the live-entertainment budget gets cut or eliminated altogether. And that's almost exactly what's going to happen. The new ownership will be closing the cabaret in March to demolish it and put the sports-book in its place. We'll be playing there one more time, and then that's it. Across from the cabaret, Trader Dick's is allegedly already being put to the sword, with a Mickey Gilley's honky-tonk to open in its place in time for the rodeo this summer. And the basement where the sports-book and bingo hall are now will eventually become a mega-nightclub, which is becoming the new the new trend in Reno - the Grand Sierra is already heard at work turning the entire north end of the casino into a mega-nightclub of their own. Overall, the theme of the new casino - the Nugget moniker will go away in the next year or so - will be country-and-western. And that leaves no room for any live band that isn't a country band. There has been some scuttlebutt floating around that the new ownership is interested in putting local bands in the Celebrity Showroom during the week, and that's a gig I wouldn't mind having at all - a midweek gig followed by a weekend gig

So why are bands like ours getting the shaft, as cabarets grow more and more scarce? Cutting the live-entertainment budget at a casino is easy to do, shows shareholders/stockholders/boardmembers that money is being saved, and can be done without costing a single casino employee their jobs. And the ugly truth is that there's nothing musicians like us can do about it. In some ways, we even deserve it. We were the people brought in to replace the unionized orchestras when the corporate owners broke the Musicians' Union. We have no protections, nobody to fall back upon, nobody to cover our backs. There's been talk for years about the bands unionizing, but it's never amounted to anything because those who might like the idea would probably be too afraid to risk being permanently blackballed from work by the casinos, and I know that there'd also be people who'd join up with the sole intention of sabotaging the effort. Most of us have just hunkered down and hope the economy improves and opinions of live musicians change.

I try to remain hopeful. But that hope is growing dimmer and dimmer with every year that passes. And the sad truth is that I hitched my wagon to this star a long time ago, and I have no other significant job skills. Joy and I both talk about moving on, finding a real job. But I know I'm lying to myself when we talk about that, and I think Joy knows that as well.

And I'm making a change here online as well. I have three separate blogs now, and that's just too many. So I've decided to stop posting at Musicians Boycott and just move all my semi-insane ramblings here. I'll eventually archive all my posts from that blog, then see if I can have it shut down altogether. Having three separate blogs creates a sort of option paralysis, when an idea dies because I can't come to a personal consensus as to where to commit virtual pen to virtual paper. If you didn't know, the other blog is Joy & Joe Eat Around, a food and dining blog. Or is it Joe & Joy Eat Around - I can't remember. And the funny thing is that I found a place here in Elko that I really want to check out before we skip town, a place that serves Cornish Pasties (pronounces PAST-ease), a British savory filled pastry that was created to be a portable meal for coal miners. Given Elko's past and present as a mining center, a restaurant like that seems entirely appropriate.

Well, I'm done venting for now. Hopefully I'll be able to post here on a very regular basis. There's that word again, hope. That 's something I need now, more than ever.