Monthly Archives: February 2015

Lunch Pails and Kittie Kats

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

I haven’t sold a million records. I’ve never starred in a film. I have been a professional performing artist since my first recording session at the age of twelve. I’ve always been what I call a “Lunch Pail” artist. Aside from a couple of crazy jobs, I have made a decent living (for more years than I’d like to count) as a full time working professional performing artist. Go to work, do the job, live indoors. I’m the guy you can always count on to be on time, know what I need to know and give it my all. I’m not a Pacino or a Kravitz. On the set, I’m just the actor you least have to worry about. In front of a mic, you’ll get what I’ve got. That’s me.

During a tough time in Bangkok, I sold Encyclopedia Britannica’s outside of a U.S. Army base. That was terrible. I’m not sure that I ever sold one.  I was a car salesman for a day, again in Bangkok. When I first hit Hollywood, things got a little dicey. I somehow secured a job selling a series of accordion lessons door to door for Jim (Loggins & Messina) Messina’s dad’s music school. I’d drive to a neighborhood, knock on doors, convince parents that their kid had some “musical talent,” sign ’em up, move ’em on. I did really well but hated it and found an agent willing to sign me up and get me some auditions. There was a brief period as manager of an infamous “boiler room” selling toner to unsuspecting rubes. I was desperate and am not proud of it. I, as I implied earlier, I do have this thing about sleeping indoors.

I have been somewhat “homeless” several times. Once, with my band Prophecy (read “Hippy Band Prophecy”) we were so out of work desperate that we slept in a huge abandoned building in Djakarta. We’d sneak in during the evening hours and jam into the night on our acoustic instruments, all the while smoking enough ganja to kill a horse. Then we’d each spread out some newspaper and go to sleep. We were awakened each morning by the percussive/concussive sounds of a giant wrecking ball hitting the building as they began the day’s demolition. This lasted about a week and bonded us as brothers.

The only “normal” job I’ve ever had was during several years in San Francisco. As a single parent of four, I relied upon the typing I’d learned in my limited time at Bishop Loughlin Memorial Diocesan High School in Brooklyn. I talked my way into a job at a law firm downtown. That became my day job.

Rush home, feed the kids (with the help of my live in girlfriend, Mary Riley) and rush off to moonlight at law offices all over the San Francisco Bay Area, typing my fingers to the bone instead of stroking the neck of a guitar or commanding a stage somewhere. Return home, a couple of hours of sleep, wake up early, scrub and feed the kids, get ’em to the bus on time and off to work again. It almost killed me.

Eventually, the kids went back to their mom in New York and I was once again doing theater, eventually heading out on the road as a collective member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.


nolatravelinman

After a short sojourn through the Estados Unidos, I am back. It’s good to be home. I thought I was going to get some RnR (Rest and Relaxation) and instead I got some RnR (Rock n’ Roll). I’ve been playing music with a new bud here, Woody Price outta Austin, and have had to hit the ground running. The pipes are rusty but the machine is still capable of pumping out a song or two so, what the hell, eh? I hid out for a year but the cat is now outta the bag. This time, I can perform because I feel like it and not because I need to pay the mortgage. I am no longer a Lunch Pail musician. I am a dilettante, playing what I want when I want the way I want. I have become the Master of My Domain.

Spring has sprung. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. I am embarking on an exciting new musical adventure. My house is becoming a home. Despite all this, I am depressed. Down, bummed out, saddened, concerned. My cat, Boudin, always an adventurer, escaped while some workers were here and I haven’t seen him since yesterday. Although he has never lived outside, he has some very fine, natural feral instincts. I’ve seen this in action in my backyard. I know he could appear on my doorstep at any time seeking reentry into the fold. I am still very concerned. There are four wheeled monsters out there. There are large hungry four legged monsters out there. I hope he’s ok. He’s a pain in the ass but he’s my pain in the ass. I miss my bud. So does his big sister.

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”

Meow

peasinapod

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An Artist’s Life and An Expat’s View

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

They say that the only heart worth having is a heart that’s been broken. My heart and soul have been broken, shattered, crushed and beaten to within an inch of existence. They, like so many, have been battered to the point where thoughts of suicide begin to linger instead of passing through like a wandering salesman of death, seeking out a new opportunity to ply his wears. There have been times when my head has proven to be not such a good place to go at night. Often, it was not a safe place to hang out during the day, either. I have been taken to the edge on more than a few occasions. I have peered over the precipice and carefully weighed my options. I have always chosen life.

One of those times found me sitting alone in a strange city I knew very little about, in a single room in a huge apartment I felt unwelcome in, with a bottle of wine (and another on deck in the fridge), a single candle, my guitar and a tape recorder. All I could do was write songs reflecting my emotions in a cathartic way. From this came my CD “More Than Life Itself.”

I had written the title track before I left a number of important relationships behind in New York. My family, my friends, my band, my animals along with the woman I loved so deeply and had shared so much of my life with. She didn’t know about the song I had written specifically for the going away “celebration” planned at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties. The dance floor was full. I asked her to step forward and played it for her. We were both in tears. So was just about everyone there.

As I drove away from our house in a valley nestled in the Catskills of upstate New York, the heartbreak turned to agony. After fourteen years, I had romanticized that some day I would die in this woman’s arms. It was not to be.

As I poured my heart out onto that little tape recorder, I had no idea how many, if any,  might hear these songs someday. I just laid my soul bare, fighting through the gristle ’til I struck bone. There was blood and tears spread liberally throughout each song and on every page. The artistic life is not an easy or simple. You can hurt a lot of people along the way, none the least of whom being yourself.

Friends ask me why I never listen to my own music. My friend Teeta keeps them in regular rotation on her playlist. She knows that if I’m in her car and one of my songs pops up, she needs to hit the “skip to next” button ASAP. Last night, I played a couple of songs from “More Than Life Itself” that are online for a friend here in San Miguel. Those songs took me back to that lonely time sitting in that little room in New Orleans with a bottle of wine, a guitar, a single candle and my shattered heart. As I sat there and listened with her, it took all the strength I could muster to hold back the flood.  After saying our good nights, I watched her walk down the quiet cobble stoned street I live on in Colonia Guadalupe. She turned the corner. The flood came.


nolatravelinman

I guess it’s official now. I am an expat, a resident of the United States of Mexico, not the United States of America. I have been in San Miguel de Allende for one year now and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Sure, I’ll take my excursions to far away places. There’s still a lot of world to see out there. But San Miguel is now home.

It has caused me see the country of my birth in such a different light. Some of the things that were important to me back there are not so important to me now. So many of the things that seem to be so important to so many back there that they are willing to hate and spit their bile at each other, seem so trivial to me. The people of the USA are very willing to jump into the “divide and conquer” trap set for them long ago. There don’t seem to be any Americans left. It’s either “us” or “them.” You’re either on the right or the left, religious or secular, conservative or liberal, black or white, gay or straight.

Moderation, debate and the consideration of new or different ideas is frowned upon. Social media has become a place where you can preach to your choir and hate the “idiots” on the other side. The other side has no intention of ever listening. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Each day, America devolves faster and faster into a nation of haves and have nots. Meanwhile, the most import issue of our lives, climate change, threatens their very existence but gets short shrift from those with the ability to make meaningful change.

Sad.

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”

Meow

Meow