the mental game of music

blogging, cello, funny, music, pictures, recording, sad, true, Yakima 1 Comment »

I’d like to take a minute to tell you a story in the long string of heart-warming online tales that illustrates the power of the internet to connect people who have been estranged for decades.  It also illustrates the power of music, and the power of a certain kind of mental pathology, too.  You’ll see what I mean.

One of my cohorts from Iron Horse received an out-of-the-blue message on Facebook yesterday, at 1:30 in the morning, from someone he didn’t know, that said, “Are you [misspelled his last name] from [our high school]?  I remember you; we wrote a song in detention.’  He named the song, and correctly wrote out the chorus.  No, I’m not going to quote it here, because then it would be searchable, but he totally nailed it.

His profile was private, there was no picture, and he had a very unusual first name, but my friend didn’t recognize him in any way.  He had eleven online friends, all of whom shared his surname.  My friend responded, “Yeah, that was me.  I kinda remember writing that in detention. . .I changed the lyrics around, and my old band used to play that song.  Do you have a picture or something to jump-start my memory?  What years were you at [our high school]?”

The guy wrote back that he moved away from Yakima in 1987, and that he’s living in California now.  He’s of a certain nationality, and “try to get sum pic’s.”  (I took the liberty of cleaning up his grammar and punctuation before, but it was all typed lower-case, with slightly awkward punctuation.)  My friend accepted his friend request, and we’ll see where the story goes from here.  The two of us can’t help but wonder what the guy’s life is like, since he’s writing to someone he met only one time, in high school detention, twenty two years ago (!), and seems to be hoping to rekindle a friendship where it left off.   I mean, sure,  my friend is a great guy, and we were a pretty good band, but this guy doesn’t even know about the band, because he left town before my friend and I even started it.  Oh, AND.  I should mention that my friend was neither a miscreant nor a ne’er-do-well (I love those two terms, and I love it when I get the opportunity to use them), he was only in detention that one day, and never saw this guy ever again.  He’s not anyone I knew, either then or now, but I haven’t been able to find my yearbooks to investigate him.

Incidentally, speaking of the band, the community access TV station still plays our videos to this day, which completely mystifies my friend and me.  These are not new videos I’m referring to, either.  They were filmed and originally aired during that same time period, from 1987 to ’89, which is when the band was in existence.   We were just a bunch of high school kids, playing some songs that we wrote ourselves, and I can’t imagine why anyone watching now would even enjoy the songs these days, let alone find a bunch of kids from twenty years ago compelling.

Be all that as at may, I admit that it’s gratifying (in a weird way) that they do still play that stuff.  We had a good time making the videos, and like I said, we were a pretty decent band, but we had no delusions about our abilities or chances for stardom, either.  We were just a bunch of kids who had a band, like a million other kids in a million other bands.

Just for fun, here’s a picture from our very first show.  In fact, it could well be of the song in question, too, because I just now remembered that I actually sang the whole second verse of it (and I didn’t sing lead very often), so it seems very likely that this picture was taken during that song.


I just love the oversize mirrored sunglasses, and you can see that I was working hard on Mullet Number One as well.  Gee, I wonder if this was the 80’s?

Meanwhile, back to the topic at hand.

In the interest of full disclosure, and the interest of fairness to this guy, I’ve spent the better part of this month reconnecting with friends from years ago, one of whom had also been twenty years ago (she reads this blog, too, by the way), and it’s been really great for everyone involved.  You probably already knew that if you’re reading this, though, since I’ve written a bit about it lately.  More than once but fewer than three times, in fact, just in case you were counting.   So I have no business knocking the guy for trying.  As human beings, we all are basically social animals (some of us more than others) who are looking for connections wherever we can find them.  But the people I’m talking with are people with whom I had actual relationships and friendships.  They’re based on more than just a one-time meeting, in detention, more than half a lifetime ago.

The title of this entry, incidentally, comes from a book that our high school’s choir director had on the bookshelf in his office, and it seemed apropos to use it here.  Iron Horse shortened it to ‘Mental Game’ and we used it as the title of our album.  I mean cassette.  Oh, how dearly I wish I had a copy of that.  I have a lot of old videos, and tapes, and pictures, and notebooks, but I’m not sure I have that cassette cover floating around anywhere.  I’ll have to do some digging.

I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds.


beautiful, cello, funny, pictures, Portland No Comments »

Last night I was dinking around on one of those social networking sites – randomly, no friends in common or anything – and I came across this particular woman’s page.  I liked her picture and the way she described herself, so I clicked over to look through her photo albums.   She’s done some work on movie sets, and had some interesting experiences.   Then I saw an album called ‘Portland Spirit’, which is a cruise ship that goes up and down the Willamette River and has afternoon and evening cruises.  I’ve played on it a couple or three times, and it’s a total blast.

So anyway, I clicked on that album and after a few pictures, I came to this one, and just about fell out of my chair.  Check out who’s sitting there playing cello, on the left side of the picture.


ISN’T THAT WEIRD?  Pretty fortuitous, too, I have to say.  Naturally, I wrote to her to tell her about all of this, so we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Awwww, yeah.  I love it when that kind of synchronicity happens.

an interesting gig

cello, funny, music 1 Comment »

Saturday night I had an interesting gig.  We played one of those cancer benefit walk-a-thons at a ritzy high school in a suburb south of town.  Nicest football field I’ve ever seen outside of the professional leagues, and even better than many of those, I’m sure.

We were scheduled to play from seven until eight, and we were scheduled to open for the 80’s band Quarterflash, but we found out that the city was worried about security for Quarterflash, so they cancelled them and hired an Elton John impersonator instead, who arrived in a blue Cadillac stretch limousine, pulling a trailer, with his entourage of two SUV’s behind him, each pulling its own trailer too.  They proceeded to unload, and unload, and unload, and we kept watching the clock.  Seven came and went, and seven-thirty came and went, and still they weren’t even close to being set up.  They brought their own intricate PA system (despite the fact that the one already on stage was perfectly good), lighting trusses and lights, a huge electronic piano (which looked like a real piano, until you got up close to it) and a set of drums.  This was all to play for a cancer benefit in a high school stadium, by the way, where people aren’t even there to listen to music, they’re walking around the track all day and night.  We could not believe it.

I walked behind the stage to move my cello to a safer spot, and I happened to overhear a very funny conversation between the piano guy and a couple of his friends.

Friends:  Hey, your car’s still running.  Is it supposed to be?  Don’t you want to shut it off?

Piano Guy:  No, Maurice (the dog) is in there.  I leave the car turned on all the time for him.

Friends:  [exchanging befuddled looks and smiles in my direction]  Uhhh, okay. . .just trying to save you some gas money.

Piano Guy:  Oh, yeah, that car idles for about fifteen hours a day.  It’s okay.

Friends, and me:  [jaws drop]

At almost eight o’clock, we just decided we couldn’t wait any longer.  We ran up and just set up around them, which apparently was supposed to be the plan, anyway.  [Slight geek-out:  It was my first time playing the cello through a big PA since I installed the pickup on it, and used the DI box.  Oh.  My.  God.  What a difference!  It sounded SO MUCH better than it ever has before.  Okay, end of geek-out.]  It was a pretty good show, but I wouldn’t count it among our best.  It certainly wasn’t bad, though.  Our final song sounded so great, in fact, that we decided to stop there and end our set with it, instead of the additional song we had planned.

We stuck around to talk to some friends afterward, and the EJ impersonator still hadn’t finished setting up.   I don’t even like the real Elton John, so I had no desire to stick around for his act, though I have to admit that after all that setup time, I was intrigued to at least hear what they sounded like.  But my overwhelming desire, especially since it was an hour later than we were supposed to be finished, was to go home, so that’s what I did.

This was another one for the Sometimes Gigs Are Super Weird file.

harden my heart

cello, music, pictures No Comments »

I love these ‘literal versions’ of videos.   This one is of the song ‘Harden My Heart’, by the 80’s band Quarterflash.

In other news, Justin and Breanna and I (with my cello) are opening for Quarterflash tomorrow night.  Can’t make this stuff up, folks.  Life is just chock full of weird surprises.

lack of ennui

beautiful, blogging, cello, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, recording 1 Comment »

Ummmm, hi.


I’m alive and well.  And busy.  Gosh. . .where to start. . .?

I’ve been doing lots of recording, with my friends from my first band ever.

I went on a random little day trip up the Columbia gorge with RockShowGirl, and we hiked to one of the many waterfalls and enjoyed the scenery along the curvy old highway.  On the way back, we stopped in Cascade Locks, where we ate the best bacon burgers either of us had eaten in our entire lives.  I suppose that means I’ll have to stop calling myself a ‘quasi-vegetarian epicure’ pretty soon, yeah?

waterfall tunnel

I went to see an unbelievably amazing show; a double-headliner bill featuring Butterfly Boucher AND Emilie Simon.  Both are supremely talented (not to mention beautiful), and I got the chance to meet both of them afterwards.  I told Butterfly that I’d love to play cello with her the next time she’s in town, and she seemed like she was into the idea.

butterfly emilie

I did something I’ve never done before, and thought that I’d never do; I went to a minor-league basketball game.   [I will now pause for your exclamations of shock and horror.]   Ordinarily, I find most sporting events mind-numbingly boring, so I volunteered to take pictures (with someone else’s digital camera, which is much slower and less responsive than mine) of the game.  I took about two hundred, and I would guess that about three actually came out.  It was pretty funny.

I went to an amazing restaurant called Trébol with Jeannie-wa.  It was stellar, and I can’t wait to go back again.

I went to an amazing restaurant called Indish with BoringFish.  It was stellar, and I can’t wait to go back again.

I had a gig with IrishBand, which ended up being IrishDuo that night, because Violinist was in MileHighState.  It was the first time we’ve ever done a duo show like that, and it was actually quite fun.  I brought the accordion, and someone asked if we knew any Beatles songs.  I couldn’t help myself, and blurted out, “Yeah, I know all of them.”  This was their cue to throw obscure songs at me, to try and stump me, which didn’t happen.  “I Don’t Want To Spoil the Party”, “Let It Be”, “Blue Jay Way”, “Real Love”, all were par for the course.  It was super fun, and we may actually incorporate that sort of Beatles sing-along set into some of our future shows.  If anybody got pictures of that, I haven’t seen them.


I’ll spare you the technical details, but I bought some equipment for my cello which makes it possible to plug it directly into a PA channel, instead of having to mic it when I’m on stage.  It may have been a small step for mankind, but it was a giant leap for my cello career.

I went to a friend’s bachelor party, which lasted until six o’clock in the morning.   At around quarter to five, a neighbor called the cops to complain about the noise in general, but ‘in specific’, I’m sure it had to do with our hilariously horrible drunken guitar playing.  The cop couldn’t have been any nicer, actually.  He was great, and totally cool about it.  It was a super-fun party.  I spent the next day in bed, and got up around three-thirty to take a shower and make the hour-long drive up to SeaBird’s family’s home in the middle of a cedar grove on the edge of a hill, to eat incredible food, marvel over the kids, watch the neighbors’ enormous fireworks display, and celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, and the founding of our country.  They are my surrogate parents, and I always come away feeling rejuvenated after spending time with them.  People like that are very rare and special.

Yesterday, I bought new heads for my drums, installed them, tuned them up, and then recorded drum tracks for three songs in our FirstBand project.  I started working on a fourth song, but it was trickier than the other three, and I didn’t get a take that I was satisfied with, so I’m going to give it its due today.

So yeah.  Been all busy all the time lately, but I haven’t forgotten about you.  It’s nice to finally have spare minutes to let you know what’s been happening.  This is just an overview, too.  There’s been plenty more, such as going to movies and sushi with LJ and SeaBird, for example.

Today I woke up at nine and edited audio tracks, even before I’d had coffee, in order to get ready for today’s recording session.  It promises to be another good, productive day.  There’s certainly been a lack of ennui around here lately.

Okay.  Deep breath, diving back in now. . .