You ever stare at something for so long that you start to laugh to yourself, or even out loud a little, at the absurdity of that thing's even existence? Like when you say a word like 20 times in a row, like plumber, or wreck, and it turns into a marshmallow of a word, creating more questions overall. Amazing what you can learn about yourself in a moment like that, extending your gaze onto the subject, familiar and mundane in the sunlight, complex and striking at night.
Often, when I'm writing a song, I treat it as a short film. A series of scenes, an appropriate degree of arc, and a dose of drama and whimsy. When I'm shooting, I'm looking to capture a bit more mystery. It's one moment in the film. Hopefully, that moment will spark something in your imagination, to wonder about the rest of the story. We all have one.
The mediums aren't so different in that way. Songs are visual, and photographs are musical. There's a sprinkle of synesthesia between them. Where does the story start? What should be in focus, and what should be in the background supporting? I love that process of elimination, the edit that comes after the gather.
Today I am applying for a position that I'd really love to have, with the New York Times. If someone asked me to draft up my dream job, this is what I would come up with. Travel, writing, photography, culture, adventure, challenge, people, food.. to report back from localities around the world. Am I the most experienced on paper? Can't say. I run across great, talented humans out there all of the time, and I'm positive they want this too. So here we go, here we are. Let's see what happens if I step out. Maybe I get this job. Maybe it's the next one. Maybe this leads me to something different entirely, something I haven't imagined yet. In any case, I'm excited and curious where life takes me from here.
Where would I go first? Eat first? Talk to? What would be the first photograph? Their stories are already taking shape. I see a porch somewhere in Spain or South Africa, strumming and drumming, singing with a group of new friends before setting off into the city to shoot and forage for dinner. One of my most vivid childhood memories is my mom sitting with me, teaching me how to visualize the result that I wanted. She showed me how to focus my imagination. Forever grateful for that.
These are a few of my favorite photographs from the last couple years of travel.
Jalama Beach, CA
A quiet fisherman and his wife spend a sunset in the waves. She would collect shells as he cast lines into the waves. Jalama is one of the more remote beaches in California. It's a treasure at the end of a coiled 14 mile road, and is known for it's high winds and big open waves. The Jalama Burger has garnered some of it's own fame as well, and rightly so. The grill is on the beach, and doubles as a general store. The beach has a modest number of campsites, and you likely won't leave there without a new friend or two.
Joshua Tree Acres, Joshua Tree, CA
In the California desert, you can get lost to find what you need. An escape from the city, or a way of life. There are few places that can match the spiritual energy of Joshua Tree. Here, a couple have built a retreat, using vintage airstreams as centerpieces and domiciles, with a shared clubhouse and a hot tub in the center of the property.
Immediately, you're struck by the colors. A woman in pink with a ink cake. The bright orange spit of al pastor. A man wrapped in a pink and white towel, asleep inside of a small structure surrounded by lush greenery. A vibrant beach town south of Tulum and Cancún.
The flying pole dancers greet a group from a cruise ship, putting on a dramatic show of climbing, waiting, and then swinging down in a beautifully coordinated descending dance. Be prepared to reward their work if you stay for the show. In a local taco shop, a family works together, chopping, serving, washing, cooking, and the youngest, shown above shares his works of art and toys with you. All in the family.
New York, New York
A family in Brooklyn out on a crisp spring day. The sun peeks out, but there is still a heavy windchill towards the end of the thaw. My favorite time in the city. The birds are dancing around the army of feet, darting back and forth to peck at anything that looks like food. A boy tracks the movement of a floating bubble above the east river, giggling a little when it pops.
Sonora Desert, AZ
The moon rises to sit briefly atop a saguaro. The giant cactus can sometimes grow more than 40 feet, and they are native to this area of desert, from Arizona into Mexico. A solo hot air balloon ascends at sunrise, a time that is not to be missed out here. Not only are the colors incredible, but the temperature allows for more comfortable exploration and hiking.
Shell Station, UT
A man in overalls was selling his wares, using his truck as a makeshift office. I bought a couple of small painted skulls and some old custom coins. I thanked him, and said, "Have a good one!" He replied, "I may not have a good one, but I've got a young one!"
Los Angeles, CA - November 10th, 2017
A protest march is organized after Donald Trump is elected president, through the streets of downtown L.A. I thought about how different their thoughts must be, the older man and the young boy. I wonder what they talked about later that day.
One World Trade Center, NY, NY
Two young sisters run to catch up with their mom, setting a quick pace to the train. The little one was all complaints, but having the shortest legs, she had a rightful gripe in this situation.
Echo Park, CA
A woman observes an art piece at a small outdoor festival in East L.A. Live bands were playing in an adjacent lot, and I believe the band that was playing at this moment was called Ice Cream.
There's a gas station and petting zoo, called The Middle of Nowhere. This Llama was all smiles and when I went for the selfie, he snagged my t-shirt with his teeth. There was also a donkey and another llama with white fur.
I couldn't tell if this bloodhound could see me, or if he was sleeping. But he didn't seem to mind posing for a snap.
I was inspired by the little boy taking the photo of me taking his photo. It's that kind of interaction that gives me hope. The playfulness of life should be celebrated, as often as possible. Be amazed, kind, and fearless. Onwards.
I thought that maybe this birthday would come and go without much hubbub, or ado, or paralyzing thoughts about existence. Here I am in the late afternoon, listening to the ambient chill station on Spotify, still sipping this morning's room temp coffee from a mason jar. It's just me and Bijou, the portly brown and black striped cat that resides with my brother Josh and his girlfriend Sami. She's as weird as any cat you're likely to meet. Punches me in the face when she's hungry in the morning, loves a strong back slap, and opens doors when she's not feeling lazy and yowling for you to come do it. I've been here for about a week, in the heat and solitude of Highland Park, just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. A separate family of feral cats looks in from the rear patio through the sliding door from time to time, a fresh litter of wobbly black kittens and a chorus of tiny mews alert me to when they are around. New life, always so incredible to see. I managed to scoop one up yesterday, much to it's mom and dad's behest, and that was about it for me, I almost owned a cat.
37 has been trying. Feeling around for handholds, hanging on with both hands through the corners, keeping my head above water.. any struggle analogy will do. People are scared. People are angry. People are divided. And all in all it's actually really difficult to tell if it's just always been like this or if this is some sort of rough patch of growing pains, or worst case, the start of a new normal. Maybe we are moving too fast. Sure, I've had the thought. Even if that's true, which I'm not convinced it is, the thought of attempting to slow things down would be like trying to stop a jet from taking off by holding the wing with one hand and a balloon tied to a fence with the other. And so, this feeling of helplessness creeps around. The trick, of course, is to go your own way. To admit to yourself that you alone control your own actions and thoughts. So simple in theory, really is. And I know exactly what it feels like to succeed in putting that particular fear and anxiety aside for a spell. Birds sing, bells ring, etc.. The real battle is sustaining. Keeping my body from breaking down. I joined a gym. 24 Hour Fitness, so that I can go whenever I want. I have indeed gone in the middle of the night, and it was fantastic. So much space for activities. No sweaty seats. I made an investment in maintaining my body, and in doing so I hope that it will help to maintain my brain as well.
When I was 20, I made a decision. It hit me in the moments after one of my early gigs after starting a band in college, called Shades of Day. I had been writing songs for a few years, starting to sing them at open mics, and I was enjoying the process of creation. The gig was in the bar section of some pizza place, and it wasn't much as a venue to make a fuss over. But we rocked that fucker, hard and then we ate pizza and laughed, all of us were smiles. The performance adrenaline lasted for weeks after those early shows. Walking back to my apartment that night, I made the decision. I was going to make music my life, my priority. It was that "click" moment. All heart and no plan to speak of... but as I've gone along, the signs that I've identified as signs haven't done me too wrong yet. I carry on, sometimes in the dark. There are some beautiful rewards along the way too. Incredible, thrilling, even terrifying moments on stage, spanning 47 states and 10 countries, meeting so many weird and wonderful people along the way. The high of playing live music has proved no true equal for many years.
And then suddenly, something unexpected, tragic, confusing, maddening.. One of my heroes took his own life. Not in some drug fueled haze in angsty twenties, not in a thirty something questioning of life choices, not in a forty something can't pay the bills and everything's gone moment.. but in his early fifties, not destitute, with so many beautiful successes under his belt, so many hardships conquered, so many people behind him, so many hearts with him, and seemingly so much yet to live for. A man who awed effortlessly with his otherworldly voice, who appeared wise, thoughtful, deep, real, steady. When the news spread, so did a bit of darkness in me. Maybe I hadn't seen it coming, or maybe I just hadn't acknowledged it growing there, but there it was. Dark as a dungeon, heavy as a mountain, and as welcome as a train to the chest.
In the days and weeks after, I came to terms with it. I accepted it as fact, I even understood in many ways. That's what haunted me the most, it turns out. Chris Cornell seemed to have everything that I would want in a life, a music career. In many ways, I've fashioned after him. Looking up to him as a guiding light. On road trips and in any time alone in the car I would howl along to his records from Soundgarden to Audioslave to Euphoria Morning. He showed me how to open my voice. I felt that pain, I felt that emotion, and I channeled it right along with him, subbing in my own challenges and unwell memories. I felt a deep connection with him thanks to those moments. I never did get to meet him, but I always thought that I would. It felt like fate in a way, and I never doubted. Only a matter of time. In some fucked up way, that was some of my motivation to keep the faith. To be in the room with one of your heroes is something that likely drives more of us than I know. To earn the respect of the people you look up to.
Chris's death shook me. It's made me question my path, my choices. It's made me take stock of my blessings, and take a hard look at some my mental roadblocks. If that could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Then, maddeningly, it did. Chester followed Chris. Just like that, two giant voices were gone, by their own choice. It was, and is, unbelievable. In their wake, so many more questions for the music world, for fans of rock, for young musicians, for anyone and everyone who had been touched by them in some way.
Here I am, barely a few years younger than both of them, and still very much trying to find my way. So, for my 38th birthday, I'm making time to appreciate my accomplishments so far. I want to tell my 38 year old self that I'm proud of him, and show him that no matter how strange and discouraging it feels out there beyond his phone or computer screen on any given day, there are damn good reasons to not give up on that 20 year old kid with the dumb grin and the big dreams, and that he's right where he needs to be.
I picked out some images from the last year that helped tell the more real story behind the few posts to various social media. Some friend's shots of me that reminded me of good days, some images I've liked for whatever reason but not posted, things that made me smile when I looked at them. Figure this whole blog is a deep dive, so you might enjoy this since you're here. This is 38. Bring it.
A tribute to Chris. I woke up and it all came flooding back. I learned this song maybe 15 years ago, when I was trying to find my own voice. I remember being struck by the sadness of this one, and the stark difference between it and the impossible high notes and fury of Soundgarden. The album Euphoria Morning in all it's strangeness made a lasting impression on me as a young songwriter. I knew every word and tried (and failed) to hit every note. I learned so much from this man, and it's difficult to believe this is the way it went down. I suppose it's rarely neat and tidy, our passing on. Rest In Peace, Chris. I wish I would have had the chance to tell you how much you meant to me. Thank you for your music. <3
Sweet euphoria, mine is the heart you own
You lost the grace of the hands that harmed you
In the daze of a thousand yawns
Lost my love, as it is I'm truly gone
In your morning I will sleep
Fire on an open palm
Death for Jesus and plastic armies
Wouldn't bring me back again
Sweet as ether eyes I'm blind to them
Gone are your dandelions, falling like mine
Falling on land mine pillows
Save my love for the lasting one
Sweet euphoria, mine is the heart you stole
Touched and broken are the things you love
Using stars to light your candles
Warms my face, but I can't remember yours
Gone are you dandelions, falling like mine
Falling like daydream mangos
Save my love for the lasting one
April in NYC was a carnival for the senses, as it always is. My stay concluded with an incredible sunset walk with my love, through Astoria Park. This was really the only time that I took many photos, which is rare considering the city is basically a living photoshoot. Some really exciting things in the works, but I'll get into all that soon enough. The park is situated along the East River, under the RFK Bridge, and a rad trestle bridge called Hell Gate. In it sits a closed up olympic swimming and diving pool, a skate park, and a river walk overlooking Manhattan and Wards Island. So many characters, so little time.
Followed the journey of this bubble from conception to death. Such a brief, beautiful life.
I’ve wanted to write this for a month now. Maybe three months. Maybe longer. Something poignant, something pointed, something compelling. I fingerprint my phone open in the morning to this new digital madness. It feels like I’m in a room with bad acoustics where everyone is trying to speak, but instead of moving closer and keeping voices at the same volume, everyone stays in place and just starts to yell. The cacophony is deafening, and little of it is intelligible. A familiar mental fatigue sets in, sometimes before I’ve even had coffee. I’ve questioned what, if anything, I can or should add to the din. I’ve questioned my own abilities to begin a worthwhile discussion. See, I’m not much for talking just for the sake of talking. I like to woodshed. I prefer to hone a sharp point in relative privacy before heading out into the fray. That’s me, most days. Procrastinating, doubting, worrying.. and there's no shortage of events to keep anxiety at a strong tilt. So I open the computer, launch a new doc, stare at it for a minute or two, and then promptly pick up a guitar or a phone, or I get up to check the fridge for anything new. There never is. But I'll stare into it anyway.
So, what do I want to say? I’d like to think that I will finish writing, hit send, and kindness will spread across the land like a shockwave. It’s such a beautiful thought that I’m writing these very words with a smile on. That’s the kind of thought that will keep a guy from writing anything at all. Because then I’m just writing something that I think will get you to think a certain way, or take a certain action. While that notion has it’s merits, it’s not really what my aim is. Not explicitly, anyway. I certainly wouldn’t be mad about inciting any kind of positive activity. There, an honest look at my thought process. Like a lump of clothes in a washing machine.
I believe in self-preservation. I understand the desire to protect yourself, your sanity, your things. It’s human nature to do that. It's necessary in so many ways. If you read through any comment section, or scroll through a twitter timeline, you wonder if there’s any decency left at all. I will readily blame Donald Trump for enflaming and empowering millions of people to be a complete horse’s ass. He inspires angry mediocrity. He fans flames. Not for a cooking fire to prepare food, or for a hearth to keep warm.. but for the fire that burns down your house, and then reminds you how lucky you are that he helped you out because that house was useless anyway. He’s a man devoid of tact, culture, compassion, or even a smidge of wit or humor. I find him to be one of the least appealing humans on the planet. Sure, I'm not alone in these feelings, but there remain many who did want this.
Last year, MMA fighter Rhonda Rousey was expected to win a big fight. She was very heavily favored. She had become a beacon and an inspiration for many women. When she fell, there was shock, and sadness. I remember that popping in my head as I watched Trump run away with the presidency last November. Hillary played the part of Rousey that night. Yes, I voted for her. She was/is exponentially more qualified, and also female. You bet your ass that’s a big deal. In the months since, misogyny has become a household word. Millions of men in this country take pride in and root for every single thing Trump does, and millions of women agree that men should think and act like that. So... ok, and that’s just one of the ridiculous issues we have at present. I don’t really need to talk about the problems I have with the sitting president. I know it doesn’t help. Voting next year to restore a proper checks and balances system again will, and you bet that I’ll be at the booth.
The Wall! Build The Wall! Donny clearly wasn’t a Pink Floyd fan. I wonder if he even hears music. I absolutely doubt it. Gahhh! See?? He has made it nearly impossible for people not to talk about him. Here I am, Trumping about. And he’s done nothing to try and better the world. Not one thing. He’ll have lived his life from beginning to end, rich, powerful, petty, and president. I don’t think he’ll die particularly unhappy, honestly. Everyone will have known who he is. Nefarious. Infamous. Historic. He makes it feel like living life as he does will make you happy. It won’t. I DIGRESS. Can you tell I’m still angry?
So, many mornings after waking I kind of just flop around in my disconnect. Wondering where the decency in some people hides, wondering where the humanity in our race and country have gone. As a country, we’re a kid that hordes our stuff and scowls when a family friend's kid that you don’t know comes over to play while the parents mingle. I’ve seen some truly childish and juvenile conversations between reasonable and good adults. I've been part of a few! There’s a great gathering of stuff happening. Otherwise known as “rich get richer, poor get poorer”. Nothing new to report there, it's just that suddenly the message from the top is that it's this suddenly cool thing that everyone should strive for. Not into it. The basic premise behind what’s mine is mine, I don’t really have a contention with. I’m not a fucking communist. I’m just saying, try a little kindness. Try to inspire by example. Try to be great by lifting someone up, not keeping them down.
So I have a band called Grizfolk, and we were recently in Mahahual, Mexico on a day off from the Rock Boat cruise. I spent part of one day enjoying the ridiculously blue water, drinking Coronas in a hammock, taking that beautiful moment in. I've never been in water that blue or clear. It's as pleasing as advertised, and those few hours were a blissful shutdown of the boiling pot that lives in my skull most of the time.
When it came time for tacos (which in truth is most waking moments), three of us ventured inland, away from the tourist strip to see if we could find even a little bit more culture. Boy did we. Sort of like walking through a facade in an old western town, the juxtaposition between the beachfront and the town is shocking. Goes from spring break to nothing fake in the length of a soccer field. We stopped to ask a kid on a swing where to find the best tacos in town, and she immediately pointed across an old soccer field to a place that looked like a little garage at the end of a gravel road. The scenes on the walk over there evoke this colorful melancholy. Out back behind paradise. Inside was a young mom with a big smile and a huge spit of al pastor. The oldest boy fried up fresh tortillas and onions, the middle girl prepared a huge stalk of string cheese, and the youngest little boy wanted to take pictures like us and also show us all of his stuff. The tacos were also unbelievably delicious. Fresh salsa, little shards of pineapple.. the whole operation was flawless, and it was an unforgettable meal in a stranger's house. I couldn't suggest it more, though I don't believe there was even a name to suggest.
There’s a simplicity to a simpler, more modest life that I think we’re programmed here in the US to think of as sad. We’re supposed to believe that they are lesser humans because they don’t have what we do. This country has to pull it’s head out in that regard. Experience and human relation with those that are different, foreign, unknown.. that’s the key to everything getting better. Closing off, digging in heels, crossing arms, closing doors, judging, pointing fingers… it’s not going to make your life better. It won’t make mine better either.
So if you happen to read this out there among a galaxy of words and voices, do I think it will change your mind in some way? Not really. Especially if you’re someone who is for building walls or think Trump is a good guy, or worse. However, it does feel really good to talk about. I don’t doubt that there are many who feel as I do, and are keeping their thoughts in too, like a fart in a packed elevator. So I'm basically promoting travel and writing here. Seriously, do both. We have to see and feel things to begin to grow back our compassion and empathy. Move closer, speak softer.
A terrific week celebrating music together, past and present. Singing group harmony is one of life's truly sublime pleasures. The vibration of 8 voices in a room is simply a sound like nothing else. I took these portraits of the group in the place of origin - the Rubicon Theater in Ventura, CA.
I'm releasing an album today, through Bandcamp. It's called Impossible Human, and it's been a long time coming.
Two nights ago I received an email from Bandcamp, alerting it's community that on Friday Feb 3rd, it would be donating 100% of it's own profits made through sales for the day to the ACLU. I've been looking for a way to donate, to help, to do anything I can to join in the fight for equal rights, and fair treatment for all that reside and come to this country. I've seen and felt the helplessness and anger that is pervading our way of life, and it's become impossible to be unaffected and stay idle.
I made this record a few years back with the help and guidance of three terrific humans. Erin Sidney, Lee Pardini, and my brother Josh Willing. Put everything I had into it. And then, life took me in a different direction for a bit. I joined a band called Grizfolk, and we lived on the road for a few years, on an unforgettable musical journey around the world, making music and memories. We've written a ton of new music together, and that will have it's own story very soon. Through all of it, this record of mine has waited, patiently. Maybe I held on too tightly, maybe it should have been released years ago. Who knows, doesn't matter. It was meant for this moment. It was a pretty cathartic experience to create it, and I've long felt that music is therapy. It has helped me more than I could ever explain, and so the music that I create, I do with that very goal in mind. To help, to heal, to make you think, to inspire, and to stay sane. :)
I've spent many a late night walk envisioning how this would be released, and many of these visions were quite grand. I remain incredibly proud of this album. It speaks to the emotions we are all feeling, and about the struggles we all face in some form or another. The struggle to be human, to find happiness, to conquer fear and insecurity, to put one foot in front of the other, to lift up your fellow human. To accept that you are different, and that we all are. To know that life is hard, and unexpected, and fucked, and beautiful, and real, and that we are works in progress the entire time. There is no perfection, there is no right way to do this..
I hope you'll enjoy the music, and that it will give you something hopeful. I'm going to match Bandcamp on this and donate all of my profits today to the ACLU as well. It's an organization that has the pieces in place to truly move the needle, to disrupt and fight against the injustice that still runs rampant in our country. It's something I believe in, and I hope you will join me in contributing to the good fight.
You can read the founder of Bandcamp's moving statement HERE.
And then, click on the cover below to get Impossible Human. Much love.
A few years ago my grandmother Joy Willing passed away. She left behind this tome, among many other treasures and memories, for my mother. While helping to pack and sort some of my grandmother's belongings, I took a liking to this book, and I asked my mom if I could have it. She said no, but that maybe someday she would pass it on to me.
This past Christmas, having largely forgotten about it, I unwrapped a gift from Mom, and there it was. A Treasury of the Familiar.
I spend some time late at night a couple times a week leafing through the pages, some still sheltering some of Grandma's bookmarks scrawled with her notes and her distinct and nearly illegible tiny handwriting. She was incredibly well read, and very conservative. I remember some conversations with her over chocolate pie and burgers, before I knew much at all about politics. I, along with a millions of others became enamored with Barack Obama as he rose through the ranks and became our President. Grandma was not a fan. Growing up in Iowa and then raising a family in the suburbs of Chicago, she was quite wary of the politics in that city, and after learning more about the city and it's history during and after that conversation, it wasn't hard to understand why.
I wish she was alive today, so that we could share a chocolate cream pie and pick apart the current events, and the impending presidential inauguration. I wonder how she would have voted, and I wonder what she would have had to say about it all. She abhorred and mistrusted Hillary, and did not like the Clintons, but she was quite pragmatic, and likely wouldn't have been reactionary. I would have loved to get her take on old Bernie Sanders. She came from a different era, and lived most of her adult life alone and battling Multiple Sclerosis. I remember her going from a cane to two arm canes, to a walker, and finally a motorized wheelchair. Her mind stayed sharp, up until the very end, even as her body finally quit on her and she left us.
The book meanders through Shakespeare, to Emerson, to sections of the bible, to Aesop's fables, to George Washington's farewell address, to the constitution... and many other rivers of words in between. It's fascinating, and I love it. I thought I'd share a few passages that I find quite relevant, and even poignant at this point in history.
I like to imagine Mr. Saxe as a time traveler, at one point appearing out of a glowing orb somewhere, and after a brief acclimation, being thrust into a political facebook comment section, inspiring this poem.
The last two leave me hopeful, and I've gone back to them once or twice in the last couple of days. I think a lot on the virtue of humility. I crave simplicity as often as I crave adventure and an unknown path. I no longer crave fame, as I once did as a boy with big rock dreams. Now, only meaningful challenge, love, art, and respect. I want to be good, in every sense, and I want to inspire that in others. "He serves all, who dares to be true." It is a daring endeavor, to seek truth, and to hold yourself to the standard of truth. Easy, it isn't. Rewarding, it is. Yoda, I sound like.
I haven't scoured through the whole book, not by a long shot.. but so far my favorite passage is the very first one, and a very famous one it is. The Way of the World, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. To be sure, we are all in this thing together, but we are also at once undeniably alone for much of our lives and many of our journeys, whether inward or outward, upwards or downwards. A challenge unlike any I've seen in my lifetime lies ahead. A complicated and agitated world is in desperate need of the simplicity of love, patience, and truth in all forms.
Today is Giving Tuesday, so in the spirit of things, here's a new song for you. I wrote it last night, after spending some time reading through comment sections on various sites, while researching ways to create meaningful and productive conversation in this treacherous current social landscape. I realize that I can't always provide an answer, or be at every place that I would like to be. I don't have the resources at the moment to help with money, but I do have a voice.
It's difficult to feel small, and forgotten about in this world. The more we connect, the more we realize how many of us are suffering from just that. We want to be heard, but who is listening? I'm no different. I've been writing music for a long time, and nothing makes me happier than seeing a song move someone, or hearing about how something I created helped a person through a tough time. Yes, I want to be heard too.
So I always take the time to listen first. I hope you will too.
In the middle of the night a few hours after family thanksgiving dinner, I awoke in the pitch dark feeling like there was one of those big tunnel-boring drills from the original Total Recall coming out from the depths of hell, about to pierce through my right eye.
I shifted positions, trying to escape the inevitable. There were no safe positions, and I tried them all. It made my stomach churn with every move. It may as well have been a rotting leather canteen full of acid and angry fleas. And I had this peculiar vision, along with the pain. It appeared, in between the bouts of being partially awake, to be emanating from the events in Standing Rock. It felt like a channel had opened, and in that waiting room between asleep and awake, I associated the drilling pain with the open channel, and tried my best to get away from it.. to go around it somehow. I couldn't. The drill fixated on that right eye, bulged outwards into the goo, and cleared the way for a few of the more convincing henchmen to rampage, and pull at those little nerve levers in the hidden broom closet of the brain that blur the borders of sanity. I zombied around until I found advil, and then I sat against the bed and I tried to find the least painful position to ride it out. I was still locked in to this wormhole into North Dakota, and so I sat there for probably an hour, letting it in. I had no choice, this would not be ignored. At this point of the day, after a few attempts at explaining this, I realize the retelling is fuzzy enough to risk being dismissed as pure fable. But there it was, nonetheless.
I've never had a migraine before. It's a certain kind of madness that I hadn't had the displeasure of experiencing until now. Sweet Jeezus. To anyone who has a lot of these, I'm sorry. I can only hope that it's my last.
So here I am, a few days later, with one of our country's greatest inner conflicts still heavy on my mind. A few years ago I was sitting inside of a teepee in the desert of California, with 3 of my dearest friends. We made a fire inside, and shared our hopes and goals with each other. I took this picture then, and eariler this year had it's outline tattooed on my arm. The symbol's energy remains a strong presence in me, and if you believe in the paranormal, or at the least in connective energy... you might believe that it's an antenna of sorts, and it tuned me in. Most likely it's just the inhumane treatment of the natives and peaceful water protectors that's got me feeling like this.
I believe that there is a compromise to be made here between the two conflicting parties, but so far it's going pretty much as the country is currently going, and battle lines have been drawn. When you really read into the issue, and see how big money truly works against those without, it becomes more personal. This is much bigger and more important than it even appears in print. It needs to stop construction through this area, and there needs to be a standing down of armed force. If a single human were to lose his or her life over this, it will be an enormous, completely avoidable tragedy.
If you'd like to help but don't know what to do, or just don't feel comfortable being involved publicly, this site will help you.
I strongly encourage you to do your own research beyond this site, and beyond the facebook posts and propoganda from either extreme. Challenge yourself to thoroughly look at this from both sides. After doing so, I believe there is a fight for rights here that couldn't be more important. This isn't just about oil, money, or politics. This is about right and wrong, life and death, and about listening to and caring for your fellow countrymen.
Quick foreword: I suggest listening to the song Always Something Better by Trentemøller first, as you go.
There's an old quote that I always seem to gravitate towards that I've liked for a long time, by Horace Walpole
"Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy for those who think."
Sure, he was just some English historian in the 1700's, and the more I think about it, I haven't felt like laughing much at all recently. I miss it. I find myself being pulled apart like a wishbone, where the involved wishers are dead set on their own wish coming true, at all costs. Our future depends on this! And while it's always possible that the split will go right down the middle, it just doesn't usually happen that way. Even when you open your eyes and you're holding an exact half of a wishbone, how do you really even know that wishes even come true? You have to believe of course, because everybody knows that if you don't then it's pretty much guaranteed to not happen... but the real action is what you do after you make the wish.
I've made a lot of wishes in life. On shooting stars, after a dandelion, after capturing a lover's escaping eyelash... and sometimes just cold wishing into the air when one feels needed. I can recall with some conviction that the only wishes that have come true are the wishes that I worked for. But here's the thing... I do believe in magic. I don't think I could make music if I didn't. But wishes live with magic and God in the secret attic. As far as I know, nobody's found it yet, thought certainly not for lack of searching. For all the good those elements can provide, they are not to be relied on, or called upon in situations such as these. This is on us, in the real world.
There was a bit of a discrepancy in one little detail from the online coverage of Saturday's march through Los Angeles. I think I chuffed audibly when I noticed it, because it was such a fitting discrepancy, considering the events that have led to an overheated state of the union. One report, via the LAPD had the total number of people at 8,000. Another report, shared and repeated by various media outlets humanitarian organizations had it at 100,000. Sounds about right doesn't it? Some downplay here, some exaggeration there, the truth likely somewhere in the middle? Yeah.
Watching a family tear itself apart on a facebook post is just awful. We see the words, and a static face, but we don't see the history, or the deeper relationship. Reading tweets, and subtweets, and retweets, and mean tweets will make your eyes explode and your heart combust. Scrolling CNN or MSNBC will make you angry and distraught, and they are meant to. Life, in your face in overdrive, accusations thrown, arguments never-ending, walls built. Yes, Mr. Trump did indeed start building a wall. Right around our eyes and our hearts.
I've said all I can and care to say about that man, and none of it is anything approaching nice. So as another old saying goes, I won't say anything at all about him. He's a known quantity at this point, and yeah he may go on to do some not so shitty things, and say some words that aren't altogether destructive...but I know who the man is. He's not going to change my opinion of him in this lifetime.
He's also the president of my country now.
I was angry on Wednesday. In shock. I imposed on myself a daylong ban from the internet so I would be able to think, and I went out. The air that day was made of bug spray and smoke. Every movement felt impossibly laborious, but it felt necessary to at least try to get around, so as not to rattle and shatter into a pile of angry shards. What had gone wrong? How did America get so divided? How did we fall for such false predictions? As David Byrne would say.. HOW DID I GET HERE?? I had so many more questions than answers. Actually, it was all questions, and no answers. And so, I asked. We asked. At once. And then both the answers that we wanted and didn't want came flooding in. They still are.
On the throng marched. From MacArthur to 1st and Los Angeles Street I talked with people. I observed. I ran into a friend and we picked up some loose tree branches from a tree trimming that had to stop working to let the march come through, held them high and made up our cause as we went. You may or may not be surprised to hear that we decided on environmental issues. I joined in on some of the chants. It felt good, and necessary in ways that shouldn't need to be explained or defended.
HER BODY, HER CHOICE, HER BODY, HER CHOICE
EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION, EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION
and, HEY HEY HO HO OUR COUNTRY'S NOT A TV SHOW
I grew up here, and I've just never seen something quite like this here in my lifetime. Such a huge river of humans coming together for myriad reasons, under the umbrella of love, and compassion. And let's be real, a strong helping of absolute disgust and distrust of our president elect, and a sudden suspicion of the people who voted for him. There's a very threatening cloud of anger about us, and it would be impossible to say that it's unjustified when you take the history of the players involved. There is some reckless bullshit happening in our government, and to normalize this, and not challenge every element of contribution and associated contributors, would be to fail as a democracy, and as a people. That just can't happen. This wasn't some shitty mob of destructors. This was a force of good hearts, looking to radiate. I think I could speak for a majority of that crowd, in saying that we're ready to converse. I'm ready to hear you. I'm not ready to lie down, and I'm not ready to say fuck it. We don't have to let the world go to shit on the back of the relatively small group of men and women who have lost their way, or aren't bothering to look for a way. Not gonna lie, it's gonna be pretty hard, but we have to do it.
We have to ask what our liberal friend thinks about. We need to know why our aunt and her kids in Michigan voted for Trump, because we firmly believe they're not racist but we're confused. If you're white you have to ask a friend who isn't, what they experience, and where. We have to work together, we have to lean on each other, and most of all, we must try to understand and be tolerant of each other. Easy to say, not to do. Especially with claws out and heels dug in. Extra especially with discrimination being worn proudly and expressed loudly.
I'm aware that these proclamations maybe sound unrealistic, and overly utopian. Hippy bullshit. The truth is sometimes gonna sound outlandish. in the recurring twist of our lives, it's going to badger and annoy us. It's hard to be honest all the time. It requires a fearlessness of being wrong. You have to allow yourself to fail. We have to allow ourselves this failure in order to move forward. And after this week, I think a lot of people have, and are discovering a voice that hadn't yet been exercised. The pessimist might say, "too little, too late", but that's not very helpful, is it? It also isn't true. It's not too late, it's just going to be even harder than everyone realized.
I think that if we were to do nothing (which so far, we are not), the world as we know it would be in danger. Because the current wave of anti-social progress feels like it's been created by a storm of fear. We're afraid that an increasing number of our fellow humans on this planet are plotting to kill us. And that fear is breeding a rash of irrationality and social division. Words that haven't been at the tips of the tongues of so many for so long are now commonplace. Racism. Sexism. Misogyny. Hatred. They're flying around like forks and knives in some vicious dystopian food fight. There's mass gouging and swearing going on, but people just keep bobbing and chucking while continuing to yell "LET'S JUST TALK DAMMIT!!". The internet is at present an absurd and disturbing place. Information and misinformation mingle unobstructed, and are almost indistinguishable in more cases than ever.
Here. in the spirit of the recent great birth of protest signs around the country, is a slogan for life, and the times:
"Get Burned, Get Learned."
Go ahead, tear it apart. The meaning remains in spite of the cheese, and I think it's catchy enough to write on the inside of a corrugated slice of toaster packaging. Maybe even enough for a tweet. Dream big.
I'm going to get involved more in this process of education and effort to right this mess, and I encourage you to do the same. It only works if we do the work, ya know? Here are some various readings and sundry that have made me think and/or inspired me this week.
READ A not-so-extreme anymore hot take about the dangers of doing nothing, from July. A tale of procrastination.
READ A guide to being heard by your congressmen: some next steps beyond tweeting, and shouting into the air.
WATCH Dave Chappelle on SNL. He's been honing his voice, and it shows. So good.
WATCH Iguana v. Snakes. Mostly because it's just awesome, but also surprisingly inspiring.
Reach out if you want to discuss or challenge anything here more in depth, or want to collaborate on anything at all. So much time and so little to do.
The lie isn't anything new, obviously. And maybe it's no more prevalent now than it's ever been, but it sure fucking feels like it. It's become mainstream, it's accepted, and for the past year or so, it's had an outspoken ringleader. A man that I can't stand. But he's far from the first, or the only. He's just here now, trying to wrest control of the country with a huge heap of bullshit. He's practically made an art out of it. I'm certain that book is coming. How to lie and get ahead. It's honestly everything I hate about society. Dishonesty makes me crazy.
This song came from that crazy. It feels like a sickness that we all have to fight through right now. The fake news outlets, the twitter wars, the fact checkers.. all of the misinformation and spin that comes to the surface in an election year, it's truly unbelievable, and exhausting. The strangest part for me, is that there just aren't any repercussions. It's becoming normal, there's this terrifying feeling of desensitization about it. Facts don't seem to matter, because they just get made up and then shared and fought over. It's insane. I feel insane.
I've put my vote in, and I've said my piece. Tomorrow we make a decision, and I sure hope we choose correctly. Please enjoy the music while your party is reached. Share if you like.
There’s a monster under my bed
Told one lie
Nobody heard it
There’s a fire down there
can’t let go
Washed my hands clean, cracked a smile
said one prayer
I’m a human, you’ll forgive me
They’re just words dear
I’m a liar
I’m a cheater
guess I caught it like a fever
this is serious
You won't stop me, you’re too nice
Scream and yell
maybe you'll feel better
I’m your martyr
I want more
just let go
I’m a liar
I’m a cheater
guess I caught it like a fever
this is serious
It's hard to stay silent. It's hard not to be angry. It's hard to understand just what is going on. It's hard to keep cool. It's hard to keep feeling sad. I wake up and I instantly open my iphone and start reading. Bad news always hits first, and hardest. The algorithms that be must now know that I click through, that I take the bait. And so they learn, but I do not. I learn of the terrors and the horrors and the tragedies, but I do not learn how to moderate my exposure, I do not learn how to be a better human. I feel anger. I feel hopelessness. And I shouldn't. I don't want to. I want to feel like I can make a difference, that I am part of something greater than me. That's hard right now. I'm too connected, and too dependent on my information. I need it. I crave it. But when I get it, I wish that I hadn't. I wonder if I'm part of the problem. I wonder if the sickness will get me. I wonder if my plane will go down. I wonder if I will be a news story. I wonder if people will care if I die. I wonder if I'm important. I have more questions than answers. My feelings confuse me. And all of this seems to be some people's goal. To make us feel these things.
I haven't written in a while, because I just didn't see the point. That happens frequently, I'll talk myself right out of it, and justify it as the right thing to do, so as not to clutter the internet with more useless words. But at the same time, I tweet, I retweet, I snark on facebook, I post my pictures on instagram and check my likes, I do a lot of dabbling and jabbing, but I don't come with my real punches. Then I wonder why. I wonder sometimes for hours, while incessantly scrolling and numbing my brain until I fall asleep with the lights on and the door open, only to wake up at 4 am in a groggy haze to talk myself out of flossing because it's a full ten feet away and I just did it two days ago anyway.. I feel a terrifying malaise, and today I want to put it into words, with my only hope being to try and break the spell and release it from my being. I can do better. Even just now, I just tried to convince myself to take a break, go lay in bed and check my social media feed. It's an addiction, of that I am certain, and I believe it to be damaging to my psyche. I don't want to be disconnected and uninformed, but I don't need to be a slave to information. And sometimes (more and more frequently, unfortunately) I get lost in the comments. Oh Jesus, the comments. Where stupidity runs rampant, heels entrench, and shit perpetually slings. The horror... But that is us. That isn't insignificant, that is a slice of humanity. Not the end all definition, but a certain essence of it. A very fearful essence.
I think this brings me around, and a little closer to my point. At least the point of this essay. I am an endlessly curious person. It's most definitely the fuel for said media addiction, I'm just always digging, watching, learning, wondering.. but that curiosity is also what keeps my creativity fed. Because information itself is not biased or full of spin, the delivery services are. The agenda comes from the humans, who create the content, and then choose what to do with it in wildly various ways. What we are confronted with on our screens is generally whatever will elicit the most emotion. Because we all have to make a buck, and there's less bucks with less looks. And how much can we actually look at and digest? It feels a competition, and in so many ways, it is.
So what do I want to add? What can I say that hasn't been said? I'm still unsure. I probably always will be. In terms of words in long form, they come in waves. Music and phrase come more often than that, but even those tend to be cyclical. When it comes to sharing my thoughts on life and humanity, the medium that often makes the most sense to me is photography. Through the face, the posture, the situation, the movement, the emotion.. It's matter of fact, it's telling while also being mysterious, it's the slowing down of a moment for process and thought. It's a gathering of evidence. It's us, and I think it's important. It's important for us to see ourselves as human. It's important for me to study and understand, and it also feels like a small way that I can help others do that as well. I hope to provoke some higher thought, and to help stem the tide of disconnection and apathy. There is just so much to be curious about, and so much to do. I'm an advocate for curiosity.
I invite you to send me a message. Are you someone with a story you'd like help sharing? Is someone you know? I want to help. Let's shoot. The photos included here are the vibe. Some of them I know well, but most I do not. I see stories in them, in the moments they are in. I don't really know where this idea will go just yet, but no matter. It's begun, and I hope it always continues to evolve and surprise me. All ideas and thoughts are welcome.
Thoughtbox submissions: firstname.lastname@example.org
I've started an instagram account specifically for the black and white collection, please do follow along @theimpossiblehuman.
Some color selections below as well. Much love.
Butts must be the leading theme at Broke L.A. fest, I thought to myself as I walked in to what looked like an old mechanic's overflow lot turned into festival entrance at Imperial Art Studios in downtown Los Angeles. Not only was I greeted with an ass themed balloon, but I couldn't help (stop staring) but notice the pale pair of cheeks falling out of the denim shorts just in front of me in the ticket line. No picture because come on guys, I'm not THAT much of a skeeze. I'm all for a candid, sniper style shot, but restraint can occasionally be best. The line was almost non-existent at this early hour, so I was in pretty quickly. Music from the 5 stages formed that muddled melange of sound you know so well if you've ever been to a festival. It's both comforting and disconcerting at once. WHERE DO I GO FIRST??
Well I just walked forward, and ran right into my friends Amber and Amrit, two of the best people you could ever meet first at a festival, let alone anywhere and everywhere you might be hanging. Amber has created a really cool art project/love hub of sorts called The Office of Missed Connections, based on the popular craigslist section that will entertain you for days on end should you let it. A talented visual artist and graphic designer, the set was striking in it's layout and so intriguing in it's content and execution. Have a look here - officeofmissedconnections.com - and follow on insta (@officeofmissedconnections) for what is sure to be solid entertainment, not to mention what could very well be a real connection for some. Love it.
I realized at this point that I hadn't eaten yet, and at this point it was basically dinner time. That's been a strange and slightly annoying trend of late, just not thinking of food until I've grown ravenous and lightheaded. But alas, the beer booth was much closer, and the free temporary tattoo that doubled as a free beer ticket was burning a hole in my pocket. After an awkward exchange with the redheaded beer girl about both of us applying it on our wrist in the wrong direction, I was ready to forage for grub.
To get to the food truck section, one had to defeat the tireless Japanese candy distributors, fight through the puppy adoption section, and avoid the cucumber water booby traps/art installation. Which to be honest, was probably unintentionally one of the coolest exhibits I saw that day. It just kind of fit the theme, and the placement was in a prime traffic area. Bravo to the unnamed artist. Bravo.
I ordered some sort of spicy orange chicken from the Swami truck and continued to wander through the market section towards the big indoor stage. Was between sets, and most people were just lining the back corners eating and people-watching. For the record, both the food and the people-watching were great, but considering it's a festival and these were L.A. food trucks, that shouldn't be a surprise. What was striking early on was how many festival bases the promoters had covered. I was probably there for less than two hours, and I was able to see and experience a little bit of everything on a relatively small festival grounds. Butts, as I mentioned earlier, were plentiful... but musically speaking I saw garage rock, electro, EDM, rap, and even a decent comedy set in the span of about 20 minutes. There was an area that was like a child's depiction of L.A. landmarks and "isms", complete with markers and chalk to do your own tagging of the L.A. river, Chinatown, the Hollywood Hills, Capitol "Fart" Records, and even the Gloved One's haunt, Neverland.
I couldn't stay to see all of the musical acts due to a hot date with a busted bridge (more on that below) but what I did see was cool. Notably the band Yassou from the Bay area of California. I got plenty of Portishead vibes from them, but on the darker side even. The vocalist and sometimes bassist had the whole captivating and mysterious thing down, even in the mid afternoon sun and light crowd. Feels like they're just getting started as a group, and I liked what they were throwing down. The stage backdrop here was so perfect. Industrial chic. All barbed wire, rebar and blue sky with purple lighting accents. Striking and eye pleasing. Well played to whoever made that happen.
This show below was probably my favorite installation. So simple and so good. For those who drive a car and have lived and worked in the city for a substantial length of time know how frustratingly corrupt the parking ticket department is. They'll get you at some point, that's a given. Nowhere is safe. The house always wins. Fuckers.
After a giant group of bros came in and sloppily raised 20 cups of beer to the sky in a massive cheers to bro-dom, I decided I had seen and heard enough for the day so I took a walk down 7th street and over to the 6th street bridge demolition site. It's being replaced because of some rare chemical reaction in the concrete supports that would probably not stand a chance against the coming BIG ONE. The bridge and the location are pretty famous, being featured in many a moving picture and photoshoot for almost 90 years. Lots of nostalgia here, and it's hard to see it go. But yeah, for those who will likely be on or under the bridge if and when the ground starts shaking, this is a great move. Plus, the new bridge looks pretty cool. Read more here if you fancy: sixthstreetviaduct.org - check out the animated tour complete with freaky ghosts.
Boyle Heights isn't the safest feeling spot at dusk, but I traipsed around the no trespassing signs, down the onramp, and up through a little hole in the fence to get right up to the edge of the eastern side of the bridge carcass, just across the 101. The lack of walkers was surprising because this is actually a rad spot to hang and set up camp, but nevertheless I was thankful for the solitude. I was having fun grabbing shots and ducking as the police choppers flew overhead. I thought for sure I'd get the spotlight or megaphone, but they either just didn't notice me or had more important things to be doing in a helicopter. Probably both. I'm sneaky as fuck.
Great day in L.A.. Had to say it was a good day.
One of the calmest days I've witnessed in a long time, the ocean was like a swimming pool. The animals of the sea were at play, and I could hear every note they sung. To be honest, it was even a little creepy in it's serenity. The few humans that were bobbing in the tiny surf were borderline obnoxious as they bellowed back and forth, channeling Spicoli, but they helped paint the picture so I called it even. I was trying to push the limits of the Sony a6000 so I got some noise and grain in these in the process. The ripples in the water were so strangely smooth and sort of hypnotizing to watch form and curl. It all ended just as it began. Calm as fuck.
I haven't always been into photography. I haven't always been into music either. It wasn't until I was in high school that I became interested in playing an instrument (thanks to a couple of good friends who wanted to start a band), and years after that until I was interested in writing songs and singing them. More about that some other time, perhaps.
Some have called me a "late bloomer". Fair enough assessment I suppose. I'm probably more tortoise than hare. One thing I have always been very meticulous and obsessive about is the craft of a medium. Let's use legos for an example. Through birthdays, holidays, and well timed shirt tugs with the parentals at various department stores, I collected a massive amount of lego blocks and pieces, enough to mostly fill a rectangular 55 gallon storage tub that I would keep in my closet. There was no organizing of the individual pieces, it was just a huge plastic pool of parts. In fact, if I remember correctly I would just dump any new lego sets straight from the package into the box. For years it grew, becoming something more than an inanimate bunch of toy parts. It became a form of therapy. To build, to search for the right part, no matter how long it took. The very act of running my hands through the plastic waters would sometimes put me into a trance of sorts, and I would forget that I was even looking for a piece. I would just enjoy the tactile experience against my fingers, and the harsh, whooshing sound of plastic on plastic, which I'm sure drove my mom crazy at times. I would pretend I was a giant, pick up a handful and thrust it towards the sky, spilling the stew through my fingers and laughing maniacally. Then of course I would shrink back into a little boy, and carry on searching for that blue three peg flat single to complete my space wing.
I've been really lucky to have amazing and thoughtful parents who recognized when I was interested in something creative at a young age and would provide simple tools for developing that particular medium or activity. I've been lucky meeting and working with amazing and generous people along the way who have helped me work towards and realize goals, and hone skills over time. What I create and produce is not in a vacuum, and I take none of it for granted. Luck cannot do the required work for you, however. And the work is everything. When I post an image today, the work behind it stretches back more than a decade. It's the not-so-secret secret behind any quality work.
A brief history: I think it was in 2004 that I received my first camera as a gift from my family at Christmas. It was a Sony Cyber-shot point and shoot. One of the earlier digital cameras. Before that fateful day, I had spent a few years working in a photo lab at Costco, where I would develop rolls of film using chemicals, negative trimmers, and large print machines. Invaluable information, even though at that point I wasn't actually into photography as a practice. But it would help to create a solid base of knowledge. I took the Sony everywhere with me, and I loved it. The shape and size were conducive to most pockets, and it's little wrist strap was perfect for tucking it away in my palm. The stature of this camera dictated in a way the style that I still enjoy shooting today. Candids, street photography, and the hundreds of moments that maybe slip by unnoticed throughout any given day. It was the colors the camera would inherently capture that really caught my eye. The vibrancy was pleasing to me, and in a way it reminded me of the colors in my box of legos. I don't think I would quite put that together for years afterwards, but today it seems crystal clear. It was something I could do and enjoy as an adult, and the capture, cropping, and editing of a photograph were my new plastic parts. I was obsessed then, and I am even more so today. I've upgraded cameras a few times over, but my love for Sony still remains. One of my main cameras is the Alpha 6000, and is not much bigger in body than that original Cyber-shot, which helps me maintain my active style of shooting. I do use my larger Canon, and sometimes my iPhone for certain shots as well, but I'm always partial to my first love. I've included a couple of early shots from this camera below.
So today I take one more step in my photographic journey. It feels big to me, a rite of passage or something like that. I've had prints made before, I've even sold a couple over the years, but I've never put the focus on it, so to speak. After touring for a few years with Grizfolk, and having opportunities to shoot in so many wildly different situations and locations, I've amassed a colorful and diverse collection of photographs that I'm really stoked on, and proud of.
After years of gentle urging, and increasing requests for prints, I've finally taken it seriously and I'm opening an online fine art print store, right here on this site. When you're done here, hit the FINE ARE PRINTS tab.
I've started modestly for now with a mix a few of my recent favorites and a couple that have resonated well with you online. There are tens of thousands to dig through (mostly crap no doubt), and that's something I will be doing in the coming months, possible featuring sets, or series, or single shots.. To be quite honest, I'm not sure yet. Gonna feel it out as I go. Most importantly, it's up and running! Please do have a look, send feedback, share with someone who might like one, give a print as a gift to someone, anything you feel comfortable with. I welcome your thoughts on the shots, and the store/idea as a whole. There's bound to be some hiccups and glitches, but I think I've ironed out most of them in past week. If you see anything strange, please do let me know. I've been pretty nervous to take this step for a while, as I have many good friends who are amazing pro photographers and I'm frankly in awe of their work and dedication. But the time is right, so here we go. Thank you for taking the time to read and have a look. I know time and clicks are precious, and I mean to always make it worth yours.
I awoke from a dream about war this morning. Most of the details have evaporated and become fog by this point, but there is one scene that stubbornly remains. I arrive in a vast field, dropped off in front of a half circle made of beat up military vehicles. All is calm for a moment, almost silent. A little too calm... The wind abruptly stops. A bullet whizzes by. Then another, and another. I believe it was the third one that grazed my ear, leaving a sliver of red on the edge, sort of like you see in the movies. It had the look and feel of a movie set, but after reaching up to touch the wound, and seeing blood on my fingertips, I instantly recognized the severity of the situation. Before I could finish screaming the all too familiar "RUUUUUUNNNNNNN", I was awake, alive, and a bit out of breath. Even though the details were already on their misty voyage, vague images of wartime continued to play out in the distance as I shuffled across the room to relieve the pressure in the dam.
I can't qualify it as a nightmare, really. I never felt fear, or terror. Even as the bullets flew by, I wasn't afraid. In the dream, it felt like just another day. Like I had been at war for a long time, and this was an everyday occurence. It's never felt quite right to equate what I do in life to actual war. Obviously. But if I really get down to the brass tacks of it all, there are indeed a handful of shared elements. The long tours away from home. The regiment, the routine. The camaraderie of our company... and the actual brushes with death. One of the more lethal activities one can do is to get inside a moving vehicle and move about the country on two lane highways and heavy intersections. I'd say that's seventy five percent of what we do. Drive. I've felt lucky to be alive more than a handful of times out there.
This last tour alone was around ten thousand miles, and a lot of it was through rain, snow, ice, and darkness. Horror stories float in through late night hotel television, text messages, phones, twitter.. an entire band from England was recently vaporized in a flash when their van drove off a drawbridge at night. First tour outside of the UK. Horribly unlucky. The danger is everywhere, and it's something that's always just lingering around, waiting for you to have one lapse of judgement, one wink of sleep, one look at a message, one bite of that shitty gas station egg salad sandwich.. it doesn't take much at all. It's generally best not to dwell on the subject, but it's also impossible to completely avoid thinking about it. Especially when you wake up to the entire band screaming because black ice just caused the van to go completely sideways and nearly slam into the back of a big rig. True story. We were somehow spared, and I literally would have just slept right into the reaper's arms. Had no idea any of it even happened until it was over. The mind boggles.
I don't really know why I'm writing so much about this. It's just been on my mind I guess. Close calls and long drives will do that to a person. But it's more than just traffic. A pretty horrific string of famous musicians dying leaves an impression as well. David Bowie. Scott Weiland. Lemmy. Glenn Frey. The close proximity of them dying serves to keep mortality in the forefront of thought. When coupled with being in the throes of the second book in the Game of Thrones series, it seems inevitable that I would come home and write about mortality for a minute. It's everywhere, all the time, but I suppose it's best to ignore it for the most part. It's inevitable, the one thing that we all share, and the one thing that is absolutely unavoidable and unpredictable. We know this. But it's not always so in-your-face as it's been recently.
On our way back to California, almost exactly on the border with Arizona, I came across a dead bird. Those who know me are aware that I have a special fondness for feathered friends. This was a rare find though. It was a long-eared owl. And it was on the side of the frontage road outside of the hotel. I was moderately enjoying a shitty cup of Best Western lobby coffee and walking across to get a look at the border when I encountered it. At first I thought it was a hawk, but it was even bigger. It was recently deceased, and there didn't seem to be any wounds or crushed wings or anything. It appeared that it had just dropped dead while flying silently around during the night, doing owl things. It was striking, and odd. Maybe it's just something that I wanted to see, but it's face appeared to be peaceful. The owl seemed content.
I moved it out of the road and onto the dirt. Contemplated taking a feather because of it's sheer beauty, but I couldn't bring myself to pluck one off. That of course got me thinking about signs, and meanings, and omens.. a cursory googling turned up a variety of information, but there didn't seem to be one clear answer of what it meant to come across something like this. Could be good luck, could be bad luck, could be nothing at all. "The owls are not what they seem.." echoed through my head. (high five and a butt patt if you get that) The explanation I decided to run with foretold of new beginnings, the shedding of old for the birth of something new. I quickly applied that to my life, and it loosely fit, so I'm running with it. Thank you, dead owl in the road, for finishing your journey directly in my path, as a winged, silent talisman. Loud and clear, good buddy.
Since arriving back home on Friday, I've done little but sleep in, eat at my favorite local spots, and organize. I unpacked, re-discovering little artifacts I picked up along the way. A white mask, a copper cup, a folded page of a bible with coarse salt inside, a dream catcher, sunglasses, hotel keys.. (I keep almost all hotel keys, for what reason I don't know yet. Art, man...) I've watched The Martian, the new Crouching Tiger movie, I walked to the beach, I walked on the beach, I got drunk and live tweeted the Academy Awards... but for the most part have mercifully just kept my brain in sleep mode. Until today. I posted yesterday about being super productive, but to be honest I just spent a few hours organizing my photos. Speaking of death, a possible tragedy has happened with the hard drive on my older laptop, which contains photos from the first two years of touring, among many other important files. Fingers and toes crossed that my friend and de-facto Apple guru can save it. That sort of derailed me yesterday, but I managed to keep the engine partially rolling anyway. Fucking technology, man.
So. New beginnings. I have an endgame here, a goal of mine that I've been chipping away at for years now. I'm going to present it properly when it's time (shooting for weeks end), but for now I'll just leave these thoughts here while I continue to do the more labor intensive technical backend parts while chain drinking coffee, rolling thin joints, and wearing an oblong circle into my rug from pacing. The last month was action-packed, incredibly fun, and rewarding. To those who were at the shows and who are now reading this, thank you so so much. Hope you've enjoyed these snaps from the journey and my thoughts about death. I'd promise you lighter fare next time, but who's to say what will spill out next?