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.

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