When 2016 began, my son was more than a fleshy bag in a tie-dyed onesie, but not much more. He was able to lay down and roll around by himself without us holding his head, he was doing some babbling, and he had started standing in a jumper about two weeks earlier. What a difference a year makes. Over the next year he turned into a rabble-rousing toddler, and now he performs guerrila maneuvers all around the house, and on the pets. But he also pets the pets, at least for about 15 seconds, before things get out of hand. Many things are thrown, but he also talks, giggles, gets your goat and makes you laugh. He cuddles and hugs and kisses. He dances and twirls around, and almost jumps--that's next. He just learned to "catch," which will progress to catching soon. He's pretty amazing.
His mommy is pretty amazing too. I don't know how she does it, but she does. We had a once-a-week 4-hour nanny in the spring, but their availability ran out in June and she basically went without one for the rest of the year. I started working from home once a week, which may or may not have helped depending on how busy I was. She took a lot of lumps but lives today to tell the tale. Unfortunately, tonight she tried decongestant and feels like hell. We all just got back from a third visit to Papa, and everyone got sick from the plane ride. My symptoms were weakest, just a little post-nasal drip.
We visited my father two other times, in February and in August for my birthday (and just after our son's). It was nice each time. We walked the piers and paths near the ocean, but didn't make it to the beach. The last time we didn't even get out of the neighborhood, but that was okay.
The best part of the first plane trip was that he didn't explode in an emotional fireball--we kept him satisfactorily busy or sleeping. On the second trip it was very difficult to keep control of him. But the third time was the magical trip. For one, we flew down the west coast on the west side of the plane at 3pm, so we got the beautiful sunrise as we landed. But from the minute we got into the plane, our son was infatuated with staring at every moving thing outside the plane window. All the trucks, tractors hauling luggage, and vans. The other planes. The lights. And eventually, the ground. He was in love with all the motion. And I was in love with him experiencing flying for the first real time. Stare out the window, sip some milk, go back to staring out the window... just like daddy! And the pictures while landing were incredible. It went really well. The way back was just dark, and the most eventful part of that trip was that he fell asleep with his nose pressed up against the window while looking at city lights below. He slept for the rest of the trip (I took him off of the window).
We bought a new minivan this year because the Montana that we've had since 2009 didn't have the features that we found ourselves requiring. We made our first camping trip with it in July and it was wonderful. Our son and Leo were a great pairing, and both were willing to watch us set up and prepare food so we didn't have to worry much. The thin tent made bed time a bit challenging, but we got a nice new big tent so space wasn't an issue anymore... we now camp in a bedroom. The smaller 8 x 10 tent came in handy as a play room, on the great advice of another family. The only downside was that we accidentally killed the battery, and had to get a jump to get out of there. And I fried my phone in it while recharging it--I think it melted the SD card slot, because it doesn't work as it should anymore.
The trip went so well that I scheduled another couple days off at the end of the next week just to try again, but we couldn't find a spot in late July on a whim. What was worse, we got into a car accident! Fortunately we were going uphill so we decelerated quickly and didn't do much damage to the front of the vehicle, but the people behind us weren't so fortunate and crunched our rear end pretty good. The minivan was in the shop for the next two months, but we ended up replicating all the bits we like about camping at home that weekend. We hiked at Reed, we used our fire pit, we set up the play tent in the back yard. It was awesome! Mommy also used the small plastic backyard pool with our son quite a bit, which was great fun for all involved. So summer at home was pretty magical. We'll see how next summer goes.
Work has been going very well. I finished transitioning to my new role early in the year. In the spring I was asked to help out with some annual submission work and, harrowing experience that it was notwithstanding, it opened up some new doors. Early June really sucked, and as it happened work crushed me right on top of my first show of the year. We also sold our old van at that same exact time (of course). There are times like that, and they're awful. But we recover and move forward. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the new year at work and where it takes me.
Musically this year was... slippery. I had planned to be available for theXplodingboys as of the beginning of the year, and I was. But not all of us were. So winter passed by with the expectation of theXplodingboys activity in spring/summer, possibly a Trance to the Sun festival appearance or two before and after that. Shortly into the year, a fall Soriah full band reunion tour materialized. I was excited for that, since it had been five years since the last time the full Soriah lineup toured--they were the first two tours down the coast for me, in 2011 and 2012.
By the time spring came along, it looked like the spring festival, which didn't materialize for Trance to the Sun anyway, actually got cancelled, and the summer festival didn't end up working for us either. So tXb was free to make plans from mid-April until my Soriah time frame in the fall. tXb knew that they had a short engagement, so we stuffed three shows into a 5-week performance window in June and July, leaving time through August for family vacationing. Notably, we performed with Seattle New Order tribute Love Vigilantes at our second all-ages headliner at the Wonder, and also with them at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle opening for This Charming Band--the first time we shared a stage with them since 2013. Seattle Depeche Mode tribute Black Celebration also joined us at the Wonder, but we couldn't work out a return show with them in Seattle that fit our limited time frame. Next time.
photo by Marshal Serna, July 2016
During the tXb time frame, Viktor and Michelle were practicing four days per week and working on the Secret Light album the rest of the time. I'm somewhat surprised that they survived. tXb is a secondary project to everyone's main projects, and that's what it's always been. I'm happy for The Secret Light--their album came out in early December and is awesome--but that was it playing-wise for me. The Soriah tour plan ended up getting pushed to early 2017.
The big musical event beyond playing was the long-awaited release of the Trance to the Sun album Via Subterranea. It was announced internally that mixing was virtually completed in September, which ended up being early December. So my attention in the fall turned to promoting that effort, as well as getting back into mastering a bit.
In late November, an official album release date of December 30th was announced publicly. Pre-orders began a few days later, followed by a free celebratory release of the Max Mystic single upon placing the order for the CDs. A video for Max Mystic was released on December 9th, which was really nice to see and which brought back some great memories.
The last week of the year was an awareness campaign, which led to many great conversations with people that I often read posts from, but seldom talk with directly. It's been really nice to reconnect with so many people, and I'm looking forward to more of it.
There was other musical news, but you'll have to wait until next year for that...
So I'll end there. To hell with the negative.
photo by Ken Barton, December 2013
And so most of 2015 was prepping and executing the whole process of pregnancy, delivery, and all the rest. Plans had been made as early as May 2014 or thereabouts for me to begin a musical hiatus for my tenth anniversary planning after May 2015, which was to occur in September. While still true, we already planned out what we wanted to get each other, which arrived 6 weeks prior. The initial public announcement was in February along with the second ultrasound pictures. There were baby showers in June. KD quit work officially in July.
Knowing this, we had also planned early on to make the most of our remaining time-as-duo. We went to many shows--Hal Holbrook playing Mark Twain for his 60th year was the first, in late January, which was excellent. We saw a very good Vancouver, BC-based Heart tribute and Ramble On at the Aladdin for Valentine's Day, and John Mullaney at the Aladdin in February as well. We saw Faith No More in April, and Eddie Izzard in June. And then, because of chance, we had not one, but two can't-miss shows three weeks before expected delivery date--Rush's 40th anniversary tour, and Jim Gaffigan a few days before that. I was very glad I decided to spring for Silver VIP tickets for Rush at Moda Center, because by then we really needed that kind of luxury! My wife got wheeled in and couldn't stand up much, but were so close that she didn't have to! Fond memories.
The wagons were also circling musically for me for a while, with my hiatus to last until at least January 2016. In August 2014 Ashkelon left theXplodingboys to focus on Trance to the Sun and free us up to play more often than once a year. We had already scheduled a January show at Hive, and we did manage to find a capable replacement in Tony Kalhagen. As soon as the early December 2014 Sumerland shows concluded, tXb set about learning a fresh set including several songs that took us in a bit of a different direction, and performed in mid-January for the first time in six months.
After the January tXb show my practices once again shifted, back to Trance to the Sun. At the end of February, Trance to the Sun completed an Oregon tour of Eugene and Portland. Ingrid flew up from Santa Barbara alone, and Enrique Ugalde filled in on bass. It was our first attempt at Blue Obscurities material, and I was excited that Black Sea, Black Fish from Urchin Tear Soda and Terrible Parties from Atrocious Virgin were added to the set. Then I did some mastering of live audio at home when I could until April, when a spring California Trance tour occurred with Terry back on bass. Notably, Erick Scheid from Mercury's Antennae also joined us on the tour, and performed on five songs with us. It was splendid. The set largely reverted back to selections from the 2014 tour, but Homewrecker was notably brought into the mix, along with Secret Police from the Blue Obscurities.
After considering trying to tour with Trance to the Sun in April, and then to attempt a show in May that turned out impossible to schedule for everyone, theXplodingboys scheduled a second Hive show for late June that was subsequently pushed back to July 5th--the beginning of the early-labor warning zone, but our son was very punctual... and after that, I was off to extremely-nervous daddy time while hoping we'd make our planned July activities! And we did.
I also mastered the Mercury's Antennae Killing Time EP in June. I had about 4 hours and took about 3. Given that, I think it came out pretty damn well!
Then, the basement flooded. Our water heater broke. We discovered this 5 days before my wife was scheduled for inducement, on a Friday where I absolutely had to work. Instead of prepping for the hospital, that whole weekend was spent clearing out the basement, drying off what I could outside in the summer heat. I was so stressed already, and so mentally and physically exhausted, that it wasn't until Sunday afternoon when KD suggested it that we called our insurance company for help. A company came in that day with their big fans and dehumidifier to do what I had only begun to do with a box fan and a bunch of towels. They were still at it the day we went into the hospital, leaving us notes on the counter that they knew we wouldn't read until we arrived home tired out of our minds. Because writing emails is hard.
The labor was 36 hours and ended in an unplanned C-section. She was extremely exhausted and in excruciating pain afterward, and I was very busy. Thankfully we had a couple of good friends in and out, helping us both through the whole process. A key nap that they had me take during the labor readied me for the last stretch and helped us both immensely. I wasn't so helpful the next night, when I collapsed from exhaustion. KD was so wrecked and immobile that I changed the first diapers, wrapped the first swaddles, and did some of the earliest regular feedings. It was tending to the baby, who was in our room with us at all times, from when he woke up until he went back to sleep for anywhere between 45 minutes to three hours. At the beginning it wasn't that bad for me because he didn't do much else. But after three days KD was desperate to get some sleep, since her drugs were causing her to sleep no more than three hours a day. After a med transition and a respite where the nurses took our son off our hands for the night, she was able to get mostly back on track.
We returned home with our new son on the eve of my birthday, with my musical and mastering solace destroyed, with much of our basement furniture outside or crowding up the dining room, and with my wife still in extreme pain from the C-section. The cats responded well, but the first night was hell due to our son not being at all confortable in his new surroundings. I also didn't know what I was doing--the stations KD had set up around the house went from reminders of what was to come to fully functional workstations in the dark. But we made it through, albeit in a few pieces.
For my birthday, I found some cards in the pile of papers on the kitchen island, our neighbor, pet-sitter and de facto local mom brought Leo back over, and the adjuster was coming by to inspect the basement cleanup. It was exactly then that the pipe under the kitchen sink rusted through... the sink we used to constantly wash and prep baby bottles, along with everything else.
Fortunately a neighborhood plumber, who we had tried to use twice before but missed, happened to be right around the corner after his last scheduled job. He came over, inspected, and miraculously acquired supplies and re-plumbed the whole shoddy works by dinnertime! That was one hell of a break. Well, a couple of them. But he had been through the new baby experience less than a year earlier, and he was totally feeling our situation!
Our local mom stayed over that night and helped us organize the house, and ourselves. We began to keep dim lights on everywhere so it was one less thing to think about while stumbling around. KD was in such horrible shape that I spent a lot of time tending to her, mainly moving her around and keeping her meds on schedule. We were both too sleep deprived to remember anything, so we kept meticulous notes on meds and baby feedings, changings, etc. on a notepad.
Neither of us were getting what you would call sleep. But we had lots of help. Friends graciously kept us in delicious microwaveable meals, making eating very easy. I had to adjust my leave paperwork to add additional time after the unplanned C-section, and I didn't even have the 15 minutes to do that until three days later... the day before I was originally to return to work. Then I exhaled, and collapsed. Nah, I probably fixed a bottle.
By a few weeks later, KD felt much better, though still not great. She could at least get herself around. So I went back to work. In order to get enough sleep to function, we both started sleeping dedicated hours in the upstairs bedroom while the other tended to the baby in the living room. I slept from 2-7am for two months. She slept from 9-2am, plus whatever naps she could sneak in. It wasn't enough, but it became enough. At work I was transitioning roles with a co-worker. There were no "normal work days" for me for months. I don't actually know how I managed to do that, but I did. Taking things one day at a time was vital. I remembered back when I was in MBA school, and I almost hyperventilated when I read the first term's integrated deliverable schedule all at once--3-5 items per week. I took that one day at a time and got through it, and I did the same to get through my sleep-deprived late summer and early fall.
Our first outing was one of our key support member's garden party-cum-surprise wedding reception, in late August. The first formal photos of the three of us were captured, and one was a Holiday gift from them to us. One month after his birth we attempted a successful day trip to Hood River. We strolled him up and down the hilly streets, successfully ate at a mostly empty sports bar, and got ice cream. Success!
Two weekends later another friend and support offered us their second home in Sisters for our tenth anniversary weekend. It was fantastic. We just moved baby operations out there, but the weather was great and we got out for some walks to downtown Sisters. Unfortunately by that time the weekends had become an absolute crucial part of our regular rest/recovery process, and we skipped out on it in favor of having more time for fun. I paid for that for the whole week afterward.
Because we never knew when we'd have to be up, or stay up, to take care of the baby, I took to watching Youtube videos during my evening shifts because it just played another one in case I couldn't move for hours. My mind, perhaps to keep sharp in whatever way it could, got immersed into prog--Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and others from my youth at first, then heavy into King Crimson--which is really three different bands. I stuck with them for weeks. I would always see Genesis videos pop up on the side, which I wasn't that familiar with outside of four albums. One night I decided to check it out. I (still) didn't care for Peter Gabriel Genesis. But the Invisibile Touch Wembley concert brought back the great memories I had of that album while adding a new dimension to it. I started jumping around and grew fond of the 1976-1982 era. The sweet spot for me, the one concert I could be happy with for the long haul, was the 1980 Duke tour at the Lyceum in London. If you've got two hours, it is fantastic and captures them at what I believe is their best.
Sometime in early October, I was actually becoming rested enough to try my hand at something musical. The mastering station was still in pieces, as was the basement. But I had a lot of mastered audio and a pile of video, so I tried making a video on my personal laptop. The video was from my Zoom Q4, which I had purchased to record audio with in July 2014. Initially an audio recorder only, the Q4 also recorded video, so all I had to do was sync the mastered audio back to it to make one. My first attempt was theXplodingboys performing A Strange Day from the July 5th performance. It was the first I had worked on anything musical since making a rough master of that show, and it was a huge relief to be back to it. After that video was released I moved onto Black Sea, Black Fish, a Trance to the Sun full production video using the different views I had captured in the February shows, supplemented with closeup footage from the California 2015 tour. It turned out pretty well. So I learned a new trick.
Cleaning the basement carpet wasn't enough, but it was October before it became apparent. So we went back down the insurance wormhole to see about having new carpet put in. Finally, in mid-November, almost five months after our basement flooded, it was again ours to use. I set about moving everything back in and setting up. Before I accomplished this, the year ended with some holiday travel to show the kid around before he could crawl all over the airplane, and a pleasant New Year's Eve gathering at a friend's house around the corner. For the record, we were all awake at midnight.
And that was 2015.
the carpet crawlers heed their callers...
So... not really posting here anymore. But here's a rundown of 2014 from my best recollection.
This year kicked off, as 2015 also will, with prep for a mid-January performance. Two, actually. And not just any, but Trance to the Sun's first two shows since a 2007 one-off reunion, and its first series of shows since 2001. That weekend also included filming some coastal video footage around the corner from Astoria, where we ate dinner.
Right after that, KD and I flew to southern California to visit my Dad. We went back again in August, the second time primarily to see the NIN/Soundgarden tour--which was awesome. During the year we also stayed over in Astoria in May and in Seaside in November. We visited Hood River in July and again for our anniversary in September, where we went to see Too Much Coffee Man the Opera and met Shannon Wheeler--one of my high points for the year. In June, we tried a new campsite in the high desert with an outstanding view of Mt. Jefferson, which we combined with a visit to the Newberry Volcanic Monument, and a stop at Lost Creek for a picnic with friends on the way back. Separately, I had a business trip to Berkeley, CA in May and another to Manhattan Beach, CA in October, and I visited a good friend and the two of us visited my undergrad alma mater during the weekend before Thanksgiving to try to catch some retiring personnel from our time there.
I got nasal surgery in March, to fix my deviated septum. It went well for the most part, and it did some good--though it didn't completely fix the issue, which isn't unusual. Still, no ear infections this year, so it's doing what it was intended. One really bad migraine in February and another mild one in the summer, other than that I just got sick a couple of times. Some minor tendonitis issues this year, but learning how to work with it. Not too bad healthwise, all told, though signs of wear are becoming apparent.
KD and I attended both the Vampire Masquerade and Vespertine Balls this year. In late April/early May, Trance to the Sun hit the road for a California tour. And on my birthday I got to watch my Italian friends in Spiritual Bat play at Star Theater during their US tour, with Ashkelon on bass guitar. 2014 tour mates Mercury's Antennae also played locally in July. Both were bands I had performed with on tours, and their local shows were opportunities for me to share that aspect of my tour experience with KD, which is always fun.
We got some cool house stuff done this year. In May, KD spearheaded the creation of a lava and river rock garden in the back yard near the porch where the grass wasn't growing well anyway. She also created or scored various lawn ornaments. We put in a second planter box on the other side of the yard, and I landscaped around both of them with more lava/river rock. KD finally pulled the trigger and got an outdoor grill, which came in very handy for many quick, tasty, grilled dinners in late summer and fall. She also a kiddie pool for the dog, and for her piggies. The big one, though, was that we stained our fence. Over a "last chance" weekend in late September, then another, and then one more, we managed to stain all the way around the inside of the fence, and a third of the outside on our property, and also stained the outsides of the planter boxes and chicken house. They all match the existing shed and trim/deck stain/paint, which brought the whole property together.
We lost two chickens this year. Jackie in March, which we were expecting, and Abbie, the alpha from the new threesome we brought in two years ago, which we were not. KD just found Abbie dead a few weeks after we nursed Jackie for a day before taking her to get euthanized. That was rough. But the other four, including our other golden ladies, are still going and had a pretty good year. And we babysat a friend's neighbors cats and kittens in August.
We got lots of snow in February, which subsequently froze. It was at this point that Leo realized that he loves eating snow. There were many cold days, and many hot days. We must have had four weeks of heat wave days, which make me crazy. The weather was definitely at extremes this year... very few days have been normal seasonal weather. But we got the rainfall that we need, and we did get a lot of sun--with and without the whipping winter winds that accompany it in the colder months.
Most of this year musically has been about the studio. Trance to the Sun spent the whole year, minus a few short breaks, mixing the new Trance to the Sun album, Via Subterranea. Due to Ashkelon and my staggered schedules, I often did my reviewing and notetaking on the way to work, on alt trans. Picture me on the Max platform listening to Max Mystic in my orange earbuds--that was about 10% of my entire work commute this year. It ended up being several months more work after the April release we had planned, but we believe that it's just about done. The album is at the mastering plant on this New Year's Eve, so it's looking like a 2015 release after all.
In addition, I did a lot of audio mastering--several live songs from the January and April/May Trance shows that made it to videos and even a proper release on Bandcamp, but also some remastering of previously released albums for future re-release. These albums were a learning experience--actually begun in 2013 and slowed by the new album work--with a long learning curve, but between album mixing and mastering work my ears have never been as highly trained as they are now.
theXplodingboys only had one show this year, in July, but it was a long-awaited headlining show at the Wonder Ballroom. We had worked toward earning one for years, and we finally did. We picked out songs and began practicing in May, after the spring Trance tour ended. I actually secured the show for us, which was a high point for me as well. In the process, I got to know Julian, Annelise, Tiger, and their drummer Keith from Erotic City, and Joe Rutledge from Candy-O, the two tributes who joined us on the bill. It was a lot of work, and it was a lot of fun. Definitely a musical high point for tXb.
The third musical lineup I was involved in this year was a December reunion of the Portland goth band Sumerland. I wouldn't have an opportunity, but I had a window of time away from Trance to the Sun and tXb was on hiatus until after Sumerland had a window in which to schedule performances. Those shows were pretty successful as well, and a good time was had by all.
Happy New Year!
The latest totals by state, as of 12/24-1/2, depending on when each state last reported them, add up to 2.2 million new private insurance plan owners, and 4.4 million Medicaid enrollees, since October 2013. 6.6 MILLION PEOPLE in 3 months!! That's despite the website blunders that likely kept hundreds of thousands more, at least, from enrolling. That sounds like market demand to me, even if the customer service computers do suck.
And that's also not counting the additional young adults under age 26 who were allowed to stay on their parents' plans as of September 2010. In June 2012, CNN Money put that total at 3.1 million people--it was growing then, and is probably a larger number now.
At least 9.7 million more people on health insurance than in 2010, due specifically to components of the ACA.
A few weeks after completing the refinancing of our home, a bigger home came up on the market three doors down in mid-December--actually, we were told of it before it even hit the market, giving us first-mover advantage. With two days' notice and the gracious help of my dad offering a $10k tide-over loan, we were off.
We looked into the house and decided that the many years of neglected repairs had left it in a condition that we could not financially take on, and the sellers weren't willing to cut the price. But by that time (between Christmas and New Year's), practically and psychologically, we were vested in moving to a bigger home anyway. It had come to my attention months before that the next clear step for us was either to save up to build out our current house, or to move to a bigger one. The prospect of building out, with a tree to move and structural damage to consider--particularly because I wanted a basement that it didn't have--was expensive, frightening and stressful. With rates as low as they still were, buying another more suitable house that cost another $40k more was the only feasible option.
So we started looking while the original house offer was waning, and happened to spot another house right around the other corner from us that seemed like it had potential despite some underwhelming photos.
Underwhelming photos was an understatement.
Not only was the place perfect in most respects, the rooms that weren't photographed were missing to save photos, not to hide unimpressive rooms. The place was pretty much ideal, and we went after it aggressively--we overbid and wrote a letter of intent. The sellers accepted. Now all we had to do was sell our own house... in January.
Since mid-December when the first house came up, KD had begun to complete the final remaining home improvement tasks at the current house--cut, paint and hang some original solid-wood doors, finish some moulding, and update fixtures and outlet covers back to the 1920's era that matched our house. By the time we signed on the second house, she only had a few things left. Our super-awesome realtor suggested that we also replace the 5 aluminum windows in the back of our house with vinyl, so we didn't have to worry about the black mold. It was a chunk of change, but compared to the costs of buying and selling houses we barely noticed. The big downer was the buyer's radon test, which revealed that we had very high levels in our home, and apparently had since we moved in. We fixed it as part of the sale.
We listed our home in early February, not even two months after the initial house went up and we began our journey (unless you count the refi as well, in which case I had been going since late September). We didn't wait for the new windows, which were simply mentioned inside the house as 'in process', and there were a few other things that were noted as well--we didn't expect the first walk-through three hours after putting up the house...
Fortunately, being so early in the season with such low rates, we had our first offer after just five days and nine showings. Just in time--on the same day, the sellers of the house we wanted had received a second offer that wasn't contingent on the buyer selling a home, and had given us 48 hours to get our own house sale in writing or withdraw. In that 48 hours, our realtor rallied and we received two additional offers, one of which we accepted. That buyer also overbid and wrote a letter of intent, like we had for the house we were going for. Much to our content, she wanted our "Hobbit house" just as it was.
As soon as the sale agreement on our home had been secured, KD found a new job. The timing couldn't have been better. Any earlier and she wouldn't have been able to tend to the purchase transactions and finish prepping our house for sale. Any later and we would have had to scrape a bit more to cover the coming expenses.
Things went more or less as expected, and we closed on our new home on March 15th--the night of a theXplodingboys appearance at a Bowie tribute night at Crush, and in the middle of crunch time at work. It was a pretty ridiculous time for me, and unlike KD I was perfectly content to sit on my ass in the house exactly as it was from day one. It did feel like someone else's house after a while, though--the previous owners had been there 35 years and attended to just about every detail already--so once I got my wind back I also fell into making mental plans of re-design here and there. And here we are.
Anyhow, tiny bit busier than expected at the start of 2013.
Compared to the realtors we had the first time, this time around was a breeze even with buying and selling at the same time. Lisa Long, of High Five realty, was a treat and a joy, worked tirelessly, and is a fantastic person. You should all buy a house through her! And we of course have to thank our fantastic friends for their help moving some of our things to storage during staging, helping us paint and hang doors and paint around the new windows, and moving the rest of our stuff to the new home.
Besides always being thankful for my lovely KD, my family and friends, and my satisfying job, I am specifically thankful for many things this year.
KD and I set out to make this a year to accomplish a lot of things, since she had gotten a job and we had more money to work with. They included going to a few concerts, doing some bigger home renovations, and to do as much or more camping than last year. I also had a goal to perform more frequently--and, as it turned out, with the most bands. It was a more-of-everything strategy, basically.
2011 wasn't that great for my close family. After mom died in May I just decided that I was done--since January 2009 life had taken a lot of downturns, and I was calling it over and starting fresh. My dad and my brother both had bad years, but this year turned around for both of them. KD wasn't so fortunate this year as her new job ended up being a lot of hell, but then she decided to get out and look for other work. Neither option was very satisfying. But I am thankful that all three of them ended up affirming what it was that they wanted for themselves and acted on it, even if it hasn't come to fruition just yet for KD.
In January we had contractors come in and renovate our bathroom, completing the work begun by KD and our neighbor Justin last year. We went from laminate flooring, sliding plastic doors on the bathtub and an aluminum shower window to white hex tile floors, white subway tile shower with new cast-iron tub, white vinyl window, and also white wainscotting thanks to KD and V, her construction buddy. Then in late May we replaced the chain link two-thirds of the back yard fence with the same cedar dog-ear fence that our neighbors had put along the last third, along with replacing the sliding back door with a double-door and putting in two six-foot doors on the sides of the house. It made a ridiculous difference in the yard. Our other neighbors took the opportunity to remove their arbor vitaes from along the fenceline, which added a lot more light in their yard. Win win for all of us. In September on our anniversary weekend, KD and I had some friends over to help us stain it. And then in early November, V came in once again to help us take out the old henhouse and replace it with a new henhouse that had laying boxes inside. So thanks to V, Cindy, Margaret, Deb and Anna for all the help this year, but mostly to KD for making all of this happen!
I had a crazy good year musically. I just looked through the last years' worth of Facebook pictures that I was tagged in and am happy to see that well over half of them were various shows with various bands, one of which I had no plans at all to participate in because it didn't even exist until January. That would be the Ascension to the Sun collective, which came about when Dru of This Ascension and her guitar player from San Francisco were scheduled to perform at the February Brickbat Mansion, but then her guitar player backed out after she had already bought a plane ticket. Since This Ascension's bassist and drummer were living in Portland at the time, and because Margaret from Brickbat knew them all and also Ashkelon Sain, a plan was hatched to build a collective of This Ascension and Ash, along with me, to perform This Ascension and Trance to the Sun songs for the Brickbat event instead. Time was short but we managed to learn three of each. A few months later, two more shows were booked on the last weekend of May in Portland and Seattle, Dru flew up once again, and Ascension to the Sun performed two more times before calling it good. It was a fun experiment to be involved with.
And then there was another tour with Soriah in August, along with a few other shows across a few months that doubled the number of shows from last year, and doubled the length of the tour from last year to a near-perfect 10 days. Jonathon Howitt also accompanied us on the entire tour this time, where he was only able to play three of five shows last year and couldn't go on the road portion of the tour with us.
Lastly, my Cure Tribute theXplodingboys had a banner year for shows. We started in January with our best Lovecraft performance yet, full of songs that we weren't previously able to pull off. In March, we were asked to perform on night one of the 10th Annual Vampire's Masquerade Ball. And then we performed to last-minute June shows; one being a fundraiser in the basement of the Melody Ballroom, and the other being an opening slot at The Wonder Ballroom for the San Francisco-based tributes This Charming Band (The Smiths/Morrissey) and For The Masses (Depeche Mode). Reviews were very positive. We didn't play again after that due to Soriah, but we are currently learning a new set for next year that will once again raise the bar to new heights.
I have to thank Ashkelon, Enrique, Cedric, and Kenny Heggem for this fantastic musical year, and of course KD, my other bandmates, and everyone who came out to all of the shows for making it all as amazing an experience as it was. I was fortunate enough to meet Cevin Key and Rick Davies (Amoeba) on the Soriah tour, and received a lot of positive feedback for my performances from many people, which I always appreciate.
Then there were all the neighbor friend get-togethers this year, which really made life more fun. Thanks to the neighborhood crew for making Portland feel even more like home, particularly Margaret, Cindy, KD, Deb and Kenny.
There were some kickass superhero movies this year! It's been a fun time watching them, and also revisiting their predecessors from last year and further back. The new Bond movie was pretty good too. And we went to see a lot of other movies in the brewpubs as well.
KD and I camped at Newberry Volcanic Monument, and at Lost Lake. I think there was a third but don't recall. We finally spent some time at Edgefield, or Disneyland, as I now call it. It would be nice to spend a holiday there--perhaps our anniversary next year. We revisited the gorge and went to Hood River a couple of times. And then I got to visit Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, downtown LA, Jerome, AZ and Tucson with Soriah, which was great.
I should of course mention my happiness over the 2012 election results. I was glad to see that people opened their eyes and saw what was in front of them, in spite of literally billions of dollars being spent to show them otherwise. It was a victory for democracy as much as it was a victory for the people that I personally preferred. But I'll hold my tongue at this point, since there's still plenty of time left this year for Congress to muck things up further.
We were garden gnomes for Halloween. Motherfucking garden gnomes. How cool is that?
Lastly, I decided to revisit our financial situation in September, moving us from Chase to Advantis bank and also refinancing the house. We acquired the lowest mortgage rate in American history, locked in right when it bottomed out in late September. On top of that, when we reappraised the house it had actually gone up in value since we bought it, thanks to our home renovations and a mid-year turnaround in the housing market. Because we had paid our mortgage down so aggressively, with this new appraisal amount we had made it to the equity level where we could drop our mortgage insurance payments from the refi loan that were required on our initial loan for two more years. We will be in significantly better financial shape next week after we sign off on the refi loan. I guess I'll thank my own efforts and plain old good luck for this.
2013 will probably start slow, and that's okay because it's a good time to sit back and enjoy the benefits of this year's accomplishments. I am ready to dial the music back a bit this year, while trying to retain and build on the best last year. We can coast on our home renovations for a bit but hope to get to the kitchen and the patio. We have the postponed Morrissey concert to look forward to in March. And hopefully KD will land a new job by then, if not before.
Okay, that's all I can think of. Happy T(of)urk(e)y Day!
Small entrepreneurial businesses are the ones that are actually creating the jobs in this country, not the juggernaut companies who can turn around and lay off or outsource tens of thousands of jobs to improve their stock price--with the help of companies like Bain, though they could just as well do it on their own.
The top line:
"39% of small businesses say that President Obama is the most supportive candidate of small business, whereas only 31% say the same of Governor Romney. And 28% are still not sure which presidential candidate is more supportive of small business."
So what is the most important issue overall to small businesses?
"40% of all small business owners nationwide rated the economy and jobs as the most important factor in their choice for president. Ethics, honesty, and corruption in government is the second-most important factor for small businesses."
5% cared about the presumably all-important federal deficit as the most important issue. It was more important as a factor when participants were asked specifically about economic issues, just below unemployment and the job market. But overall, as many cared about beating Obama and health care, and more (6%) cared about re-electing Obama, social issues, or had no opinion.
And how did the all-consuming issue of taxes fare in the minds of small business?
"Self-employment taxes were rated as more burdensome than even personal income taxes or health care costs."
However, only 3% of small businesses considered taxes to be the most important overall issue, though it was rated highest as a factor specific to their businesses, seconded by health care costs. Coincidentally, 3% is also the percentage of small businesses who actually make that all-important figure of $250,000 or more per year. 97% of small businesses would fall under Obama's single and only proposed income tax increase because they don't make that much. As a reminder, an increase on income over $250K would only be on the money that comes in above $250K, not on all of it. If a business or individual makes $250,100, they would pay the higher tax on the last $100 only.
"Only one in five small businesses believe that President Obama's health care policy helps their business, and two in five small businesses say the opposite."
I'm not surprised. The health care law was designed to help people. If I had my way, health care would be affordable to all and companies would not have to be involved at all in providing health care--it's far too risky and nerve-jangling to the employees, and because not everyone is covered it's also too expensive for the businesses so they keep paring back the benefits that they offer to their employees to counter skyrocketing costs. The health care law is still tied too much to corporate profit and not enough to improving health care, but the Health Care Reform act is the long-awaited first step and it's already helped many millions of people save money or get coverage. Eventually that WILL make an indirect improvement to the labor force.
The last word, one that I can only hope is heard in the upper echelons of politics:
"6,000 small business owners have told an unusually nuanced story about the factors that drive their political decisions. When job creators speak, we need to listen."
And, though they have very valid concerns that certain talking heads would have you think were directly threatened by the Democrats, job creators support Obama. When you also take into account that even Fox News viewers trust Obama more with our foreign policy (despite the begrudging comments from the newscasters reporting it), you can understand why I have real difficulty imaging that Romney--who has already disowned 47% of Americans--would be any kind of valid option for the presidency.
So apart from the late June Seattle and late July Faerieworlds shows, Soriah did a road tour from August 11th through August 20th. It was the day after my birthday--1 of 3 during that week for members of the tour--and was epic. Very, very epic.
As I did last year, here is a stitched-together journal from all of the Facebook posts, pictures, and additional content chronicling the affair. It was twice as long as last year's outing and had twice as many shows--including a Santa Barbara show scheduled no sooner than August 7th--so I expect that this journal will easily be twice as long as last year's. As Enrique stated in the van in his pirate accent while checking his smart phone for something or other, LET'S FIND OUT.
August 11 near Portland
my friends are AWESOME, thank you all for the birthday wishes!!! Now it's SORIAH 2012 tour time--we're leaving town in the next 90 minutes. These are the dates I will be playing. I hope to see some of you in your native habitats:
San Francisco CA: Sunday August 12 Red Devil Lounge with Jill Tracy
Santa Barbara CA: Monday August 13 Reds
Jerome AZ: Wednesday August 15 The Spirit Room
Tucson AZ: Thursday August 16 Solar Culture Gallery
Hollywood CA: Saturday August 18 Bar Sinister
Santa Cruz CA: Sunday August 19 The Box/The Blue Lagoon
My first Soriah show is SUNDAY, 8/12 in SAN FRANCISCO at the RED DEVIL LOUNGE with the fantastic JILL TRACY. This show was absolutely amazing last year, and I highly recommend attending if you are in the area. If you can't make this one, we're coming back through the area on the way home and will be playing SANTA CRUZ on SUNDAY, 8/19. ♥
Serious funk revue going on in the Jealous Bitch on the way to central CA. Thanks to Mistina LaFave and the mighty Prids for letting us borrow JB!
Landed at our lodging for the first evening of tour just outside of San Francisco. All is well so far. Quite a musical journey already--funk, Raga, metal, Rush, Bowie, Nick Cave, and others. Tonight I play San Francisco at the Red Devil Lounge! If you're in the SF area I hope you can come out!
Rolling into San Francisco for this evening's Soriah show at the Red Devil Lounge. At some point in this leg, the title of the Soriah song I Ix, when spoken as an excited moan, becomes a euphemism for a gratifying sexual experience. It quickly expands its use to a myriad of situations.
Jill Tracy is almost done being amazing. I do enjoy her music so. And then it's time.
Last night's SF show went really well. 101 trip this afternoon. Tonight, Red's in Santa Babara!
We were pretty much in a commune, which I thought was a very cool, organic experience. Not growing up in warmer or temperate climates, I find partially outdoor homes such as the one that we stayed in interesting (the refrigerators were on the porch, and there was an outdoor bath). Didn't have much time to explore Ojai, I'm afraid. We stayed out by the Deer Lodge, and after we ate there we were gone.
Stopped for food at around 8:30pm, after sundown. 106 degrees. Opening the van door was like opening an oven door.
At around midnight, we stopped to get gas at one of the only places to do so, at a rural gas station where the owner was carrying a broom. As it turns out, he was looking for tarantulas so he could move them off the parking lot to safety. He found one, on the wall of the building. We stood there and looked at it with him at various levels of disgust. After that, we threw small pieces of gravel up into the air so that the many circling bats would dive for them before realizing that they weren't bugs and swooping back up again. It reminded me of being back home in Watkins Glen as a kid, when we would do the same thing at dusk with the bats that lived behind the shutters.
We ended up staying in Prescott, not making it all the way to Jerome. I got my first good nights' sleep of the trip.
Katie Lee lives right down the street. Just heard some lovely stories on how the locals celebrate her and her accomplishments.
Wow, what a show this was! Soriah played first, and then it was Open Mic night, one the likes of which we had never experienced. The performers blew our doors off! Ashkelon, Jonathon, and Enrique performed as well.
At the end of the night, Enrique bought birthday tequila shots for Ash, Jonathon and I, picked up his beater acoustic that he brought solely for late night singalongs, and performed Las Mañanitas, Feliz Cumpleaños, and two raucous pirate tunes that only come out after everyone is sufficiently drunk. It was bliss.
August 16 near Tucson, AZ via mobile
Got to stay in a terrific art space complete with painter working on art for Burning Man. Had a wonderful breakfast at Tooley's, and now we're back on the road. Today we're driving back west to Los Angeles. Arizona has been fun, and thankfully unseasonably cool and rainy.
Just crossed into California on I-8.
Got into Alhambra about 1:30am. I've been having horrible troubles with my phone reception, limiting my time online. With the exception of the last 45 minutes, I've been online just long enough to post what I've written.
Spending the day in the LA area, then off to Boardner's for the Bar Sinister show at around 6. Hope to see some of you at BS tonight!
We started at Olvera Street with lunch at the El Paseo Inn. I thought it was the best Mexican that we had so far, and that's saying a lot as every other meal was Mexican. So says this gringo, anyway.
Great experience last night at Bar Sinister! Great response, better than anyone anticipated. Good friends. CEvin Key showed up and told us all how cool our show was! I got to talk with him and hang out for a bit. Best part was getting to thank him for getting KD to go to Philly to see SP during my last week in NY so I could pack and sleep for my Oregon relocation instead of obsessing about her non-stop. Life is cool. Now--Santa Cruz for our last show--and we're late due to a restaurant that was stuck in slow motion. Shude!
On Sunday, this quote and link were posted by CEvin Key from Skinny Puppy regarding our LA show:
"saw Soriah live last night.. fabulous! considering the venues lack of great sound. seriously these guys should be opening for Dead Can Dance. Kind of made me want to form a new live playing type of band to have some fun. Or get Tear Garden playing again or Touring.. if we can find Marty !!"
Just saw an outstanding Mark Twain quote: "Travel is fatal to prejudice." Right on, Mr. Clemens. Right on.
Enjoyed a good dinner with Enrique Ugalde (pictured) and the Soriah gang at the Black Bear in Willow. — at Black Bear Diner.
(Enrique has a penchant for scratching his back against various fixed objects. Plus, he's kind of cuddly.)
Got back about 4am, and after unloading most of our gear and sending everyone home with their respective stuff, I landed at home at about 5am. 4.5 hours later, I was off to work--which was way better than last year, when I was dropped off at my front door at 9am, came inside and opened my work computer. Fortunately, I had gotten quite a bit of sleep after Black Bear and throughout the evening and night.
After finally getting through all of the emails, posts and comments, I am starting to fully wrap my head around how amazing the Soriah tour, and all the birthday greetings to send me off, have been. Replies, where overlooked, are forthcoming. Thank you and love to all. ♥
Let's see. In the hours since the Aurora, CO shooting, I have heard the following be blamed:
fixation on martyrdom as fame (Marilyn Manson--okay, that was from a RS article about the 1999 Columbine shooting, since he was being blamed for it even though the shooters didn't even like his music. It's extremely good, by the way)
the lack of gun laws (liberals)
the ineffectiveness of concealed-carry gun laws (apparently Colorado has them)
ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian values (Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas))
ACLU, gays, liberal churches, etc. (American Family Association)
a massive conspiracy being run by the government (anyone who thinks that our government is actually competent enough to do this while simultaneously failing miserably at everything else)
Obama, for staging it (Alex Jones, a crazy person with a talk show and a website)
the music the shooter listens to, what he ate for breakfast that morning, what color the paint was in his apartment, etc., etc. (us, doing what we do)
So, basically... everyone is blaming what they already have a problem with. As they do.
My opinion before I heard anyone else's? Aurora, Colorado is the latest victim of the lack of adequate mental health care in this country. I doubt gun laws will ever change the fact that some people need help but poor mental health is viewed as a weakness in this country, sometimes self-inflicted, not something that can and should be helped as part of a complete health care system. Meanwhile, another plane of soldiers arrive back home from foreign wars abroad, and a stimulus-free post recession economy drags on...
So why don't we all relax and calm the f**k down for a minute until those investigating the occurrence actually find out what happened? By institutionalizing an entire knee-jerk system around these sorts of tragic events, we are perpetuating what Manson called the death icon, who, by committing a murder becomes an instant celebrity on par with the best-known entertainers. That's not exactly going to deter others of the same mindset. Thanks.
2012 continues to be the year of fruitful musical endeavors. The Ascension to the Sun collective (featuring members of This Ascension, Trance to the Sun, and yours truly) is busily preparing for late May shows, Cure Tribute theXplodingboys has added a fundraiser for our good friend DJ Wednesday in early June, and many of the dates of the Soriah tour have been scheduled (in mid-August, instead of September as originally envisioned), and include stops in California and Arizona.
Here is an updated list of my past and future dates so far for the year. Two more shows added in June!
21st January - theXplodingboys at the Lovecraft Bar, Portland
3rd February - Ascension to the Sun at Brickbat Mansion at the Lovecraft Bar, Portland
30th March - theXplodingboys at the Fez Ballroom, Portland for Night One of the 10th Annual Vampire's Masquerade Ball, along with David J of Bauhaus backed by Adrian H and the Wounds, Fever, Adam Hurst
26th May - Ascension to the Sun at Dante's, Portland with Sumerland, Adrian H and the Wounds and Soriah (solo performance)
28th May- Ascension to the Sun at Sunset Black Monday at the Sunset Theater, Seattle, WA with Imaginary Daughter and Blackpool Astronomy
the Ascension to the Sun collective
9th June - theXplodingboys at the Melody Ballroom, Portland for Love Your DJ, a fundraiser event put on by Lady Raven of Vampire's Masquerade Ball fame for DJ Wednesday, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer and will be having an expensive surgery in May (visit djwednesdaypdx.com to donate)
22nd June - theXplodingboys opening for This Charming Band (San Francisco The Smiths Tribute) and For the Masses (San Francisco Depeche Mode Tribute) at the Wonder Ballroom. The Smiths--Depeche Mode--The Cure... This show is going to be ridiculous!
theXplodingboys, portland's tribute to the cure
29th June - Soriah in Seattle, WA
27th July - Soriah at Faerieworlds in Eugene, OR
12th August - Soriah at Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco, CA
15th August - Soriah in Jerome, AZ
16th August - Soriah in Tucson, AZ
18th August - Soriah at Club Sinister in Los Angeles, CA
19th August - Soriah in Santa Cruz, CA
Thanks as always for your support!