Important Survial Tips When Riding One's Motor Scooter

If you want to survive when you're out on an adventure on your motor scooter on a gorgeous summer night, remember these

1) Wear Your Helmet. Always wear your helmet.

2) If your backpack is heavy because you've loaded it up with: a laptop (and power supply), a notebook, that heavy chain you lock up the scooter with, and those two "Cards Against Humanity" supplements you found at Target, it's gonna be heavy. so put the straps on well and securely so it doesn't fly around on sudden turns or other motions. Unsecured extra weight can and will affect your balance.

3) If you luck out at Guitar Center and get that suitcase guitar stand you've been wanting for a very long time ON SALE with an extra 25% off for being a floor model, securing it to the back of the scooter will be serious business. Use ALL those bungee cords you also bought at Target, and secure it redundantly on many vectors. Then ride carefully at first and get a feel for how this big winglike thing affects your aerodynamics.

4) MOST IMPORTANTLY, as you ride through downtown Silver Spring late at night, you will look a little silly to carfulls of big scary gangster looking fellows in SUVs. If one such SUV pulls up to you and the guys hoot and holler at you, smile and laugh along. They're just having some fun. If one of them says "Hey, take that action to the sidewalk, bro", it's perfectly fine to say "But my ass won't fit on the sidewalk." and if another one says "That thing don't LOOK street legal", it's okay to ask "Does that make me an 'Outlaw Biker'?" But if one of them then says "Yeah, 'cause that thing's slower than a motherfucker!"
"Yeah, I know. 'Cause I'm riding it home from fucking YOUR MAMA!"
You will likely not survive a guy who looks as big as a bulldozer getting out of an SUV on a gorgeous summer night and pounding you into the pavement WITH your motor scooter.

That is all. Return to your duties, and be safe out there.

My *Other* Story From Last Saturday's Busking Adventure In Old Town

I had an encounter last Saturday while busking in Old Town that is not in direct contrast to my previous post, but was nonetheless a very different flavour.

Observational Preface:

Most people who tip are nice people, and I don't just say that because they tip me. On those occasions when the encounters go beyond just dropping a bit of lucre in my guitar case, most of the time, the little glimpses into these people, their lives, etc, are positive ones. But every now and then...
like this guy last Saturday.

Okay, I'm going to put a disclaimer here. All of what I'm about to say is my own biased observation. I see and deal with a lot of people, and I'm told I'm pretty smart, but I have no formal training in psychology. I and my samples are very subjective. Also, I connect some dots here, and again, I own that my deductions are subjective.


There I was playing away, minding my own business, which was good (Yay!) and not rainy (Double YAY!). I had stopped to retune (as one does when one plays a twelve string barometer) and a great fuss erupted in the middle of the intersection I perch by. Traffic came to a stop and soon there were multidirectional honkings afoot. It started with a honk, and then someone calling out "Oh my GOD, bro- are you TEXTING?!" More honking ensued, growing angrier, and then an odd sound joined the cacophony: a whistle. You know the sound. Cops, referees, gym teachers, drill seargeants; it was *that* whistle, with the little ball in it. Beep BEEP Twweeeeeeeet! Beep! Tweeeeet!
BEEEEEEEEEP! TWEEEEEEET! It felt like it went on longer than it did, but that's because, despite being tuned, it would be pointless to start playing again until this "tweet"storm passed. It ended with someone calling out "Fuck You! Yeah, that's right FUCK YOU!" and then I saw someone stomping away out of the traffic. I was glad to see him leave. Despite the slow pace of it, random people playing in traffic on King St is generally unsafe, and it's bad for business. So this part was over, and I'll be coming back to it later. It *seems* a non-sequitor, but it's an important bunch of dots that I connected later. Let's call it foreshadowing.

Cut to about an hour later, and this fellow walks up to me dressed a little strangely. By strange, I mean Dr Strange. He had on a nearly garish set of evening attire. One *might* say vintage, but it was too hodge-podgy, and given the number of reenactors I know and their pride and successes in matching period, I stand by that judgement. What stood out most were his garish tie, and his black cape. You might see this getup at con, where it would pass just fine as "fun formal". But in Old Town, land of weddings, receptions, high-priced lobbyist dinners, prom kids, etc, it wasn't quite it. He stood out. He was too formal for casual, and too weird for formal.

As he walked up to me, greeted me, making some weird pun that was homonymically not quite calling me Jerry Garcia. No, I don't remember exactly what he said. But note that it was the type of homonymic pun akin to calling "New Hampshire Avenue" "NUDE HAMSTER Avenue". I get people calling me Jerry Garcia all the time. I look like him. I'm a furry, scruffy, chubby hippie in little round glasses playing guitar with a merry twinkle in my eye. I could pass for Jerry, but as I've written in a previous story, my cover gets blown by the fact that I have all of my fingers intact. Anyway, I was playing a song, and I soon finished it after he stopped, and he repeated his joke. And then, he somehow saw that I "got" his joke and said:

"So do you get the joke now?"

"Ohhhhh..... Like Jerry Garcia. Is that because I LOOK like him? OH, that's so FUNNY!" I said, and launched into a very over the top obviously fake stage laugh. Hecklers and drunks like to believe that they are the very first to make their brilliant jokes. Who am I to challenge their illusions, right? So I sometimes left-handedly indulge them with the big fake laugh. The ones with any semblance of cool left realise what's going on and then we both share a real laugh. The jokes may or may not get any better, but at least we'll be laughing sincerely.

But this guy...

The fake laughter washed right over him, and he starts to regale me with tales of him having been a "player" back in the day in a Grateful Dead Cover band.
He asked me if I knew any Grateful Dead. I responded by playing my version of Sugar Magnolia. Deadheads tend to like my version. Much of it is very faithful to the recorded version, and while I can't approach Jerry's sweet voicing and guitar virtuosity or the band's improvisational genius, I've come up with a nice bit of improv for the song myself, that gets a decent nod and appreciation from both the afficionados and my non-Deadhead friends in equal measure. That's when he tipped me, which I took for appreciation, but then...
Right in the middle of my own instrumental jam, he pulls a pennywhistle out of some magic pocket in his cape. I could tell it for what it was: a cheap, rolled, not quite piece of tinfoil with a cork on one end, key of D. A good player can make these sound okay. They work. They may not sound super great, but in an informal jam, they're fine. With a good player, they're fine. This guy was not a good player. And he *didn't* know how to make it sound fine in an informal jam. For one thing, he didn't really listen, he just tried to noodle, and his breath control was definitely subpar for getting good tone out of the instrument. For another thing, while my guitar capo may be off-throwing to would be jammers trying to suss out my key, I had a hard time believing that someone who's played in a Dead cover band wouldn't recognise that I (for once) was playing in the band's actual key (A)(mostly), which MEANS that to jam along with me in key of A while playing a key of D whistle, a few easy but meaningful tweaks to one's fingerings could either have made our scales match or created a bluesy pentatonic, either of which could have made a quite serviceable jam. I had a really hard time believing that someone who'd played in a Grateful Dead cover band would not know how to do this, or not had years of accumulated hours doing exactly this kind of thing through trial and error while unknowing of the technical music theory. Okay, maybe his "instrument" wasn't pennywhistle. But I've jammed with people before, of many skill levels, sometimes with them playing on their non-principal instrument, and in my expert opinion this guy's actual skill level did not match his talk at all. There was a disconnect. He was not quite failing to jam along with me, and what's more decided unilaterally to do so, and the results were not pleasing. I reluctantly cut my instrumental section short and just finished the song. I made no comment about the pennywhistle.

But, undeterred, Capeguy went back to talking at me. This time trying to commiserate with the story about what a tragedy it was that Jerry Garcia died, how he was "found dead in his car in Griffith Park, having died from a heart attack, all alone..."

"Um. I'm pretty sure that he had his fatal heart attack while he was in drug rehab...again" I answered. (I just looked that up, btw, and I got it right).
At this, the guy changed the subject.

He started to tell me about how he met Carlos Santana. He asked me if I knew about the (somename) bar in (someplace, sounds like it's in California) town. He affected surprise when I said I'd never been and never heard of it. "Why not?" he asked me, kinda condescendingly. I pointed at my guitar case and said it was impractical on my salary. That went over his head, and he jumped back onto his own train of thought. Back to (somebar) in (someplace) Well... that's where he was "helping out the bartender" one night, and Carlos Santana came in. He bragged about greeting Santana with a "pun" that was just like how he greeted me, but with a rhyme on Santana. Santana's date was apparently amused. Capeguy then went into an important sidebar about how at that time, people hadn't been seeing Santana out or touring much because he was dealing with a divorce.

Well, anyway, as Santana and his date were leaving (fleeing?) the place, Capeguy said that he wished Santana "Luck and and blessings in this 'dark time".
And at that, according to Capeguy, Carlos got enraged and "screamed" at him:
"What do YOU know about it?!"
The encounter then escalated into a near vehicular assault in the parking lot of the (somebar) with a drunken Carlos behind the wheel.

So Capeguy, now reaching the conclusion of his story wanted to know if *I* still thought Carlos Santana was so cool after committing such atrocity. He expressed how *HE* thought that Carlos needed to re-examine his *ATTITUDE*.

I said, "Dude. He was going through a divorce. You poked a raw nerve. Why couldn't you just leave him alone?"

"But I was wishing him luck and blessings"

"No. You were totally trolling him. He was just out for dinner probably trying to find some distraction from his trouble in a place where he wouldn't be swarmed by fans and/or reporters, and you couldn't just let him be. You had to go rub his face in it."

"YOU WEREN'T THERE! What do YOU know about it? Huh? TROLLING?! What does that even MEAN?! Listen to me, man. I think you need some serious work on your ATTITUDE!"

He went on for a little longer, but I stopped him (somehow) saying
"Dude, I really need to get back to work, OK?"

He stalked off, and then, just from around the corner I heard it:
"Tweeeeeeeet! Tweeeeeeet!". That whistle. From earlier. In the street.
That had been him.

And now, the dots started to connect.
(Now this is PURE conjecture)
I was seeing this guy taking just a little too long to cross the street. Someone honks. He sees someone texting while stopped (probably, "We're here, looking for parking. Where you at?" the way one does meeting up) and now he has an excuse to holler and lecture them. Traffic backs up. Windows roll down. He starts his angry tweetstorm to a chorus of car honks. It ends with him screaming "Fuck YOU!" at someone who's got a car pointed at him who's had enough of his shit, and inched forward. Recurring themes, anyone?

And then with me: I'm out performing, and just by doing it, I'm outperforming him. I'm too shiny and and too much of a threat, so he has to engage. First with outrageous claims to own some sort of legitimacy that I casually shoot down. That brings his hackles up. So he changes subjects and pulls out a story that, as soon as I find bullshit to actually call him on, he uses my "fault" to summon up his umbrage and lecture me.

This guy has a cape full of props. He's dressed to attract attention.
Everything his does and says is some sort of provocation, which he then turns into a test. If you *fail* the test, he's annointed himself Punisher.
I know this game. I've been the black player in it all my life for some asshole who's got something to prove.

My entirely subjective read and assessment:

This guy is a bullying peacock, looking to make himself important so that he can ruffle out his feathers and peck at somebody. And he's attracted to anyone who's on display so that he can prove himself superior. His dress is provocative, his stories are fables and his props that look like toys are actually weapons.

Yeah... he's THAT guy!

Despite Their best efforts, The Times are, in fact, a-changin'!

Last Saturday night, while busking in Old Town (Alexandria), I saw something that made me smile and gave me hope that Progress is being made, despite the recent efforts of many to undo it:

It is, apparently, prom season. I saw a lot of youngsters dressed up real nice roaming about. One large group of them were accreting in front of Il Porto, apparently to dine as a group. Often, the restaurants in Old Town have seen fit to give prom kids, breaks, specials, and group discounts.

Anyway, as this group of kids were milling about, a pair of very nicely dressed young men were passing in front of me holding hands.

My initial thought was that it is sweet that we're entering an age where same sexed teen couples can feel safe enough to dress up, go out on the town, *and* to the Prom together. Yay.

But *THEN* some of the group of kids at Il Porto saw them, and a group greeting went out (as they'd been doing for previous stragglers) and one of the two young men called back- and they ran, amidst cheers and felicitous mirth to join their friends, who were as happy to see them as anyone else showing up to join their merry band.

This non-normative couple were not just free to be themselves out in public, but were accepted and welcomed JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE in a group of peers to which they belonged.

Most excellent!

So in direct spite of the efforts of the flapping right wings to blow back our Societal progress, there are large groups of kids who accept their gay friends as just more of themselves. While some laws and policies may roll back, I think this kind of attitudinal shift is going to prove less tractible to undo. Northern VA may not be like rural SC in that regard, but those few hundred miles have been shrinking. The times, they are, in fact, a-changin'.

A fairly representative sample of *why* I'm stubborn.

I'm known for being stubborn. I'm stubborn in an argument, and I'm stubborn in my pursuits. Most especially, I'm stubborn in my pursuits. I have what I do, and why I do, and how I prefer to do it, and I'm loathe to change without very compelling reasons. This is well known.

And yet, people try to change me. All the time. And yet people tell me I'm wrong and I'm doing things wrong. All the time. ALL the time. Even though others have tried and been ground to dust, they do it. But still, I persist- doing what I do, and how I do it. And when I persist, people often call me stubborn, often, as if it's a bad thing. It's not that I'm incapable of being wrong, or believe that I'm incapable of being wrong, or that I'm incapable of change, or of believing that I need to. Despite perceptions, I and my methods do evolve on a regular basis. It's just that in order to do so, I need a very compelling reason. Sit back and hear a tale of just how compelling those reasons need to be.

Ok, so a very regular part of my income comes from busking, usually in Old Town Alexandria. I have a regular spot where I do this. I'm known there, and I'm known for playing there and (when I'm there) reliably being in this one spot. I like that spot and that spot likes me. I have regulars who know to find me there. The local merchants known me and are supportive. They tell me that they miss me when I'm gone. And I have persisted against attempts by others (who see my success there) who've tried to poach the spot from me. I get there earlier than any of my potential competition even thinks about arriving, and I park my things there and I play from morning, all day, until about 2-2:30 am. (with occasional potty breaks and a break for late lunch/dinner). When I busk, I usually play for about 14 hours total. I have a program I follow and only rarely in the course of a day will I repeat a song. And I do so all year round no matter the temperature and usually despite the weather.

Now here's one bit about why I stubbornly play at that spot wrt to competition. Most of the regular others who play in Old Town, who've been there for a long time, have learned that competition from other performers is the single biggest damper to income. Even the best players will see a dip when others show up. But most of those others have learned that if they don't fight me for my favourite spot, that our coexistence can be a much more cordial rivalry. I've found the spot that works best for me, and that actually frees them to find the places that work best for them. And now, what a coincidence- there's a bit of a distance buffer between us. I become a known, reliable factor in their calculus, and in streeperforming, any factor that it NOT based on a random factor means your income becomes steadier and more reliable. In RPG terms; you get a less random *number* of dice that you then get to roll for income.

Now, there is a level of inclemency weather-wise, where I will give myself permission to skip, or skip out. This past Saturday afternoon should have been such a day, but the forecasts kept changing, and I had no way of knowing until I got into it, that it was going to be such a day.

Which is why Saturday sucked SO much during the day. It rained and rained and rained. It was supposed to be mostly drizzle with scattered bits of light rain, but instead it was the opposite. I can, cope with this, but my cope was seriously tested this time. I have a big umbrella rig that allows me to play in (less than thunderstorm) rain. But it's not fun to do so. I still have to protect whatever instrument I'm not playing and also my non-instrument things. Over the years I've evolved those methods and they're pretty good, and they're not really part of this story, so just assume that when I'm not playing either my guitar or the banjo, that they're okay. Well, mostly okay. And they were this time. Suffice it to say that my methods allow me to persist in performing up to the point of (thunderstorm) level rain- what the Dark Sky ap on my phone would call "moderate". And by persist, I mean long term. I can play through short bursts of "moderate" or even "heavy". But back to this Saturday. It wasn't that heavy of a rain, but it was persistent (like me). Just ALL afternoon.
Wet, wetter, icky, persistent, relentless wet.

And here's the reason why that sucks. I've found that if I can play through some inclemency, that I have an edge over my competition, in that mostly, they can't just deal with rain as I do. Also, for some reason, the engineering of my umbrella rig eludes them. I've rarely seen another performer even attempt to duplicate my rig, and none of their attempts seemed to be particularly robust. I suspect that they don't realise that what I have is the result of decades of evolution. So, most of the competition is gone as soon as there's any more than drizzle. Competition being the biggest minus to the number of dice I get to roll for income, it means that anything that takes out my competition adds dice to my roll. The problem is that the rain itself is also a minus. Rain means fewer people out, and rain makes people very goal oriented as they walk by. Even those who might be inclined are less likely to want to stop and fish out tips, let alone listen. Snow is completely different. When it snows, people get festive, and my tips go up, way up. Also, snow is actually easier to deal with. Yet somehow people are more impressed with me performing as it snows than as it rains. When it rains, people get miserable and my tips go down. Boy did they go down last Saturday afternoon. As water started to pool in the downhill(ish) side of my guitar case, the most common tip I got was "Hey. Your money's getting wet!" But I was in for a penny, in for a pound and I persisted. The weather maps showed that the rain was only a narrow band, and if that band shifted only ten miles, that I'd be in the clear. It didn't do so all day, which sucked. Wet, soggy suckage. It sucked ducks' nuts, underwater, in a cold pond.

There were other suckages as well. For some reason, (very likely because they were clogged with oak pollen), the gutters directly above me started leaking water in a steady stream that fell right next to me and my umbrella rig. It splashed at me from the side, which got me wetter than I might have been otherwise. And then the air temp started to drop. Icky wet, and now cold, icky wet. I was very close to giving up. But I noticed as the afternoon waned, that the heavier rain started giving in to more drizzly rain, and occasional clearing. And as it got closer to dinner time, those times of clearing directly coincided with my income stream going up. By dinner time, the maps were showing a real potential shift/end to the shower line, and I saw more people out. I decided that I would break for dinner. Then, if the trend of rain mitigation continued, I'd get a warm dry coat from Mama Tiger, and attempt to play to my first "par". That amount is one I can live with. It's like a C minus for the day. I was about half way there. An hour before, I had been a third of the way there, which showed me a *very* improving trend.

So I resolved to persist after a strategic retreat and recharge. I had my dinner. I rallied myself. And I went back out. It was still raining a bit, but not as hard as before. (Oh, and there was another minus to the day- the streetlight by my spot was out last week, and in that dark pool, people were having trouble seeing me and my guitar case. Battery powered Xmas lights to the rescue, but the dark definitely took away some dice last week. Last Saturday, the streetlight was still out, but just in case of that contingency, I'd brought a pretty bright lantern. I bungeed it to the lamp post in front of me. Yes, it made a HUGE difference) Anyway, the income difference after dinner was like night and day, or- day and night.

As promised, the rain waned, and then stopped. People came out. They were in a very festive mood, too, and many of them were quite generous. Much faster than I thought, I hit my first par. Much faster than I thought, I hit my 2nd goal. And by then, I knew I was having a very different night than the day had been. Now granted, when I estimate what my income of the day is, it's before I actually count, so I've learned how to just estimate low, and be pleasantly surprised at the end. I keep track of the songs I play (I actually have a log of the songs that generate tips and how many), and by keeping an eye on the tips going in, I've gotten pretty good at a "low ballpark". But sometimes, my low estimate is much lower than reality. Last night was one of those nights. Since it was rebounding SO well, I decided to just keep going and I'd dry up and warm up later. I'd set myself on a course where instead of a "low" night, I'd have more of a "normal" night.

But that was where I seriously *under*estimated. I hit my 3rd goal level at about 1:30 am. That is a number where the night gets an "A" grade. At dinner time, I'd been failing and thinking of giving up. But now, I'd outstubborned the bad stuff and totally rebounded to an "A" grade day. Yay.

Because I was still damp though, and because I needed to be at a 3LF gig the next day at 11am. I still knocked of a *bit* early. Nonetheless, when I tallied up my earnings, I was shocked to learn that I was *way* low in my estimate. It had, in fact, turned into one of my best nights, ever. It's Number 8 now in my list of Top 20 earning days busking in Alexandria! I've been busking there for about 25 years.

THAT'S why I'm stubborn. And THAT'S what I get for it.

Being stubborn/persistent is how I succeed. It is, for me, the most reliable and the most consistent path to my success. In this case, my stubbornness took me, literally from "failure" level to a tangible measurable triumph.

You can look at my stubbornness as a character flaw, but from where I sit, it was, is, and remains my strongest suit.


It was 1977. I was 14 years old, and re-new to the DC area (we'd lived in MD back in the 60's) having just moved to Bowie MD. Before that we'd lived in western NC, before that, a brief stay in NJ, and before that, Spain. So, when I arrived in this area, while alot of pop music and some amount of country music was in my brain, I had been aching for something more. I'd discovered songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and my mind was blown. I grew up with a great appreciation of classical music and Queen, combining it with Rock and Roll was mind-exploding. A fellow student in my karate class had introduced me to Rush back in NC and the _2112_ album was hitting all the right buttons for my love of Scifi. But still, my exposure to what is now called "classic rock" was limited: The Beatles (and then Wings) were my big obsession. I knew I liked Rush. I also was way into my first Elton John record (_Caribou_). I dug the Eagles and Heart, and Aerosmith, but had only heard a few songs at most from any of them. That summer, between NC and Bowie, I gotten some glimpses of the song _Carry On Wayward Son_, by Kansas and it sounded like I'd like it, but didn't quite know from Kansas yet. So, I was a nearly blank slate as I found 98 Rock, broadcasting out of Baltimore, late in the summer of 1977.

I found that I LIKED Rock and Roll. I liked it a LOT. Loud electric guitars and anthemic, bombastic, glorious noise was JUST right for 14 year old me.
Eagles! Queen! Rush! Kansas! Heart! Aerosmith! Led Zeppelin! (!!!), Pink Floyd (!!!!) The Who, on and on. There were some bands that didn't move me that much, (like Lynyrd Skynyrd- I was not as fond of the South that spawned them and informed their lyrics, character sketches or not). Styx had just released _The Grand Illusion_ and OMG!!! "Come Sail Away" was just the most magnificent thing I'd ever heard, and THEN I heard it on the headphones. Even the more acoustic-y bands like Crosby Stills and Nash and early Jefferson Airplane were devoured by my young ears off of my little clock radio.

All through that period, as I started high school and got recommendations of other bands from schoolmates, (Bob said "Check out Jimi Hendrix" and OMG was he right) I would stay up late at night, reading, and listening- but there was still an itch that hadn't gotten scratched yet.

My eighth grade English teacher had taken my existing love of poetry and fostered it into a profound fruition. She'd taken us through various forms and periods and my mind was blown. Not only could poems be pretty, but they could have a depth to them; unconventional rhyme and meter, allegorical or symbolic tracks parallel to their straightforward narratives, abstractions just playing on the sounds, and EVEN a coherency in direct spite to a lack of form or formal structure. My mind was blown wide open. And THEN- she had us bring in the lyrics to our favourite songs and we analysed and dissected them using what we'd learned of the poems we'd studied. My mind was blown all over again, as I began to see poetic potential in song lyric.

And so- as my mind was being blown musically by rock and roll, some thoughts began to bubble through my brain:
-You could make rock music with classical pretensions (Queen!) and rock's natural penchant for epic, larger than life sound could feed seamlessly into that.
-You could make rock music with Science Fiction elements like Rush and Styx, with again, those epic elements boosting the story like a rocket
-You could write deep, penetrating allegory with Rock's penchant for big/loud being a macrocosm for the microcosm you examined. ("Hotel California")
-You could, as with the classical music I loved create profoundly emotional passages; lifts, joy, catharsis, and pain. (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix)

And as teenage me devoured my Tolkien, I started to wonder if, maybe if, there could be music played that evoked (for instance) Tolkien's epic imagery in it, not just in the usual rock idioms, but if rock could be played with a classical range of emotion. It would, (I theorised) take some considerable musical virtuosity; an ability and willingness to play Rock music outside of Rock's musical boxes-to experiment with the form and find new musical frontiers with modern instrumentation with old and new and heretofore unheard stylings.
I also started to wonder if the *writing* in rock music could benefit from someone who *really* knew wordcraft- someone who was not content with simple couplet rhyme, who was willing to tackle the universes I liked to imagine and the complexity of not-so-simple human be-ing. And could such a someone capture the majesty of a world (real or imagined) the way Tolkien could?
I wondered, and I wondered.

And one day, in the early fall of 1977, there it was: the brand new single from the brand new album by Yes: "Wondrous Stories".
I'm not sure if I heard "Wondrous Stories" or "Roundabout" first on 98 Rock.
They played both songs, I remember that, and I remember that "Roundabout" impressed the HELL out of me. These were guys who were not at ALL content to keep Rock in the same place they found it. They heard music outside of ANY boxes, and they played the HELL out of it. Wow!
But "Wondrous Stories"- that song grabbed me by the brain, my heart, and my entire soul as nothing had before and little since. "Didst my heart love till now? Forswear it sight! For I never knew true beauty 'till this night!" (Shakespeare, but you get the idea).
That night, I found what is, to this day, my favourite song EVER!
Everything I longed for in a lyric; the craft, the flow, and the magnificence evoked to me by Tolkien's prose. And everything I longed for in music: the epic sound, the soaring instrumental sections, the spot on "greek chorus" like counterpoint to the narrative.

I got the Yes album _Going For The One_ for Christmas that year and it is, to this day, my favourite album ever. As I came into my own buying of my own records, I tended, in those days (depending on the price) to not buy an album that only had one song I liked, until I'd heard more from it. Money was scarce and record albums precious. _Going For The One_ came before that time for me, and it stands, even now, as an exception to that rule (usually three songs on a full priced album before I buy). That year, we also started spending more time at my Uncle Tony's house in Columbia MD around the holidays. Holiday visits with him were easier, and so became more common. Around Easter, I think it was, we went to visit, and in the living room, was this crate of record albums that I was told belonged to my Uncle Doug, who was in the process of moving and had put his records with my Uncle for safekeeping. I was told, that if I wanted to borrow any, I was more than welcome. (Uncle Douglas was a HERO in my younger eyes, he always had and did the coolest things. I wasn't so good at emulating the sports he was so good at, but his other qualities - including a strong appreciation for art, science, bohemian counterculture, extreme generosity to me and an infallible moral compass made very deep impressions on me growing up.) I was BLOWN AWAY by this generosity- again! I noticed, among other things that piqued my curiousity, were several Yes albums. COOL!

One of those Yes albums was _Close To The Edge_, and that cinched Yes for me.
I got home and almost as soon as I had a chance, I was in the living room with the headphones on and the lyrics in front of me and I DEVOURED that album.
Oh. My. God. I never knew that any band could write with such fearlessness, such grandeur, such eloquence, and be just so OUT THERE. And such virtuosity. I could TELL what they were playing was incredibly complex, weird, and demanding. And so breathtakingly beautiful. I totally dug how weird it was and the weird parts of the musical journey that album takes were very appealing to me. But weird music, (I'd found) was often dissonant, and sometimes seemed gratuitously so- weird for it's own sake, like Frank Zappa (whom I've always liked, but not like this). But Yes had a point to it, and were not at all afraid to create something as magnificently beautiful (as Bach or Wagner, or Beethoven, or Stravinsky) or as daring. (I was so pleased to find out just how daring Beethoven and Stravinsky had been in their days) _Close To The Edge_ was rock music, at the same time that it shattered the boundaries of the genre. I LIKED rock music. But THIS- this was MY Rock Music. That album cemented that for me. I then devoured _The Yes Album_ (the other Yes album my uncle had) and from that point onward EVERY Yes album I could find and afford to get- sight unseen, unlike most of the other albums I'd buy new.

And when "And You And I" came on the radio this morning, I let myself be taken back to that time when I heard Yes on the radio at age 14 and that song for the first time, at age 15, and how much THAT song on THAT album cemented my budding fandom for Yes for me.

By the time I was twenty, I owned about a hundred record albums. Almost half of that collection were albums by a handful of artists: The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie. Over ten of those albums were Yes albums.

Here it is, nearly forty years after my first hearing of the song, and it still packs that punch, and here's the coolest thing: I can still hear "And You And I" even now, and find new threads, new insight, and new colours and nuance in those lyrics. Damn! It's *almost* like not having to grow up, but not quite. It's more like I lucked on to loving something that growing up lets me appreciate even more.

Why I still don't really consider myself a "filker"

Alot of people who like my music are in the SF fan community and musicians there are generally classed as filkers. Sometimes I don't mind being placed in that community, but I often *don't* think that the label really accurately reflects what I do.
There are some fine musicians in the filk community, and so I've come to realise that simply calling myself a "musician" can be off putting, because it could imply a kind of false dichotomy; an implication that filkers are not musicians. Saying so makes me sound like a snob. I get that.
One of my problems is being pigeonholed at all. The portion of my repertoire that I might play at cons represents maybe 5% (and that's generous) of what I do. And even calling me a "folksinger" sells me short, as the portion of my repertoire I'd play at Pennsic, or a Renfest gig or even an Irish bar is less than half of what I do. And we're talking about over a thousand songs. Really.
Calling myself "eclectic" though will get people saying things like "Oh, sort of like They Might Be Giants?" and that's not it either. You won't find TMBG covering Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot, Yes, David Bowie, The Clancy Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Child Ballads in the course of one set.
This brings me to the next part of what I'm trying to say. TMBG and Weird Al are supremely popular among the filk community and they deserve high honours and respect for what they do. They are masterful musicians and very adept writers. And they make what they do look effortless. But in my music collection and my listening history they are both side notes, and barely represented. They're not really my thing, and here's why: both of them focus on what I would call "postmodernistic deconstruction". Weird Al does this through a very adroit, spot on imitation that he turns into silly, yet sardonic parody. TMBG does this by writing songs that kick the stays out of any box pop music would come packaged in, without resorting to the snarly anti-social monster voice or atonality that you'd find in other music that rejects pop conventions. I *like* both of those things, but I don't have a transcendental LOVE of those things.
When I find a song I really dig, yes, I often want to do a version of it that has not been done before (otherwise, what's the point in ME doing it? IMHO), to find that musical place where the song speaks to me and to play *that* for people. So, sometimes, I'll find some "different" way of doing that song. Sometimes that way is within the box, and sometimes it's not within the box. But there's usually some sense behind it. One of the most popular of my originals is "Party With The Elder Ones" or "That Cthulhu reggae song" as many of you call it. The borrowing of the reggae beat, and musical style was deliberate, not because it was "wrong", but because I'm projecting Lovecraft's xenophobia onto Rastafarianism, which, I think would have been right up his alley. It, is, as I've said, a song I'm well known for in "filk" circles, but it's appeal is tangential to my actual approach to music. I don't set *out* to parodise musical genres or lyric, even though it's *part* of what I do. The same goes for my "sonnet" version of "Freebird", which will likely be loved by many of the same people who love "Party With The Elder Ones". My motivation for writing that was not to create a parody of a song, but to create a song that allows me to shoot a zinger back at the drunks and smartasses who request "Freebird", even at a Renaissance Festival.
And that brings me to what inspired this post. Among many of my concurrent projects, I'm in the planning stages for a CD/Album project that will entirely feature songs where people die. I'm sure it's going to be enormously popular. My audiences have a proven, reliable, (and often annoying) palpable lust for tales of death and bloodshed. I do a lot of those songs, and within that topic, a deliciously wide variety of styles, genres, sounds, and outcomes emerges. The album will be surprising in it's breadth, which I'm greatly looking forward to, because, while it seems to be a pigeon hole, it will actually be more fairly representative of my style(s) than some of my other releases to date. And THAT is why, when I was reminded of the song "My Way" a few weeks ago, I realised that a deathbed song in first person from a character who remembers best that he did things "his way", would be the perfect final song on this album- especially if I can do an original take on it.
My first thought was to do a banjo arrangement. It would be unusual and attention grabbing and unique. But as I started the work to piece that together, I realised that it would also wind up being it's own cliche' and not much more than a novelty, really. And here's where the avid filkers, and filk fans in my peer group and audience (IMHO) would start to avidly disagree with me. I can hear them already. They'd want the banjo *because* it would be so "wrong". And that's what I mean by "postmodernistic deconstruction". "My Way" is a hell of a song. I'm not saying that gives it some sort of sanctity that must not be violated (and I find it equally annoying to hear that Sinatra's version, while iconic, must now be the standard to which all versions must adhere, lest they be "wrong"- really? A *wrong* way to play "My Way"?). But I don't do original takes on a song just to break or poke fun at the original. I'm not trying to create the next "This Is Not A Pipe" (google Alfred Jarry for the reference). I LOVE singing songs and I LOVE music. And I always want to create something that means something to me, and I discovered how I want to do that: just the way I often do.

I was checking out chord progressions, and started to fingerpick them (which helps me find the 'flow points' for making an arrangement that 'flows' through my fingers rather than 'chugs'- chord[chug] chord[chug] etc) and really liked how that worked. It would have been that way on the banjo, of course, but it's in my guitar arrangements where I really live the fullest, where I really (to me) sound the most like me. So I started to go with that, and am winding up with a very Maugie-like, very sweet, kinda peppy, slightly bouncy guitar counterpoint to the melody, which I kept at it's stately pace. It's going to be a great arrangement that I'm going to LOVE playing, and it's going to be, very ME, which is how it should be. People who listen to my music with any discernment will actually hear ME in the way I do it- the chord voicings, the progressions, the fingerpicking style, everything. It will truly be MY way!

Sure, a banjo arrangement would get the cheap laughs, but I'm going to love playing this and even tweaking it, for the rest of my career. And it will be the perfect final cut for an album where people die in all kinds of ways. The last word will be a final *dignity* instead of a final snark. And that, in a very strange way, that I don't think I've fully explained, is part of why I still don't really consider myself a filker.

"I am Lono, you Bastards!"

This is based on a dream I had. It's mostly as is, albeit
with some details backfilled in by my wakened self just to
make it narratively coherent. In the dream, I was telling
this story at a party.

I Am Lono, You Bastards!

Okay, you may not recognise the quote. It's from a
Hunter S. Thompson novel called _The Curse Of Lono_.
It's undiluted Thompsonesque pre-hangover travelogue that
tells you more about his troubled soul than about whatever
he was writing about. It starts out nearly tame, rises to
a crescendo of dysfunction, and then crashes like a tsunami,
along with it's narrator. Enough said? Ok, are you
sitting comfortably?

Good, then we shall begin.

Sonya and I finally got to go on a cruise. We'd been
bandying the idea about on and off for decades, each cycle
coming a little further towards serious and then a little
further towards actually doing it, sort of like those
waves that come further up the beach as the tide rises.
And then one day we did it. We went on a cruise to the
Carribean. It was fun. We spent a lot of money and did
all of the stuff (including touristy stuff) that one does
on these cruises, and our experience, coloured of course
by our own wackiness was still more or less what you'd
expect. There are, of course plenty of adventures to tell
about that, but none of that is the least bit important to
this story. This story is about that one strange souvenir
that we brought back and what came of it.

So, we were out to dinner, on one of our last nights in
the islands, and we were enjoying the sunset, the music, the
sea-breezes, the seafood, all of that, when our waiter
brought us a drink. The drink was some sort of rum and
citrus and sweet grog-like cocktail, and it came in a "Tiki"
mug. You've seen this. It's the classic pacific island
cylinder carved into an impressionistic head thing. Google
"Tiki Mug" and you'll get the idea. Anyway, the waiter
brought us this thing, about 8" tall, about 5" diameter
with this drink in it, and said "Compliments of the gentleman."

"Which gentleman?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"And who is it for?"

"For both of you".

"Ok, tell him thanks."

Weird, right? Weirder still, it had a *tiki* motif;
a Pacific culture design in a *Carribean* setting. Whatever.
Free drink. We didn't like it that much, so only had a bit of
it. Sonya had a few sips, I barely had any. (But I don't
like alcohol anyway). And we didn't get to know who our
benefactor was. Weird. But then came the punchline: as
I went to pick up the mug, my hand pressed against a little
round button on the handle, and suddenly the mug spoke. It
had some sort of speaker and sample dealie in it and it said:
"I am Lono, you bastards!" in an approximation of Hunter S.
Thompson's signature crumudgeonly growl. I thought it was
HILARIOUS! Sonya didn't quite remember the story from which
it was derived, but I quickly brought her up to speed.
Anyway, I thought it was HILARIOUS! Sonya found it amusing
at first, but soon realised that this was going to be yet
another one of my annoying toys that NEVER gets old. I was,
in fact repeatedly pressing the button and laughing as the
mug said "I am Lono, you bastards!"

"You're not buying this mug. We're not taking it home."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"I mean it."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

The waiter came eventually to bring us the check, and
before Sonya could say anything I asked "How much to keep
the mug?"

Sonya said "No!"

The waiter smirked and said it came with the drink.

"Woohoo!" I cried raising my fists into the air.

Sonya rolled her eyes WAY back into her head. And sighed.

"It's going into the suitcase for the flight back.
You are NOT bringing it on the plane."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"I mean it."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

And that's how I got the first mug. More on that in a bit.
Yes, I played with it alot, at least for awhile, once we
got home. Sonya was right. It was, in fact yet another
of my annoying toys that I thought would NEVER get old.
But then, it kinda did get old. It's not that I stopped
enjoying one of my favourite dysfunctional quotes, it's
that the damn toy itself got annoying to me. First, it
would do that thing that those noisy toys from the 90's
would do when the battery got weak: it would go into a
mode where it would act like it was constantly being
triggered. I eventually found the battery compartment,
and changing the battery would help, at least at first.
But it wouldn't help reliably. And it always seemed to
wait until I was alone before it went into full "endless
loop" mode. Then it got *really* weird. This is the
part I can't explain. It would work for some people, but
not for others, so it wasn't a really reliable party toy.
It also seemed to remember whom, it worked for and whom it
wouldn't work for. It was like a more complex version of
the singing frog in that Warner Brothers cartoon. And when
it *wouldn't* work, I couldn't find the damn button on its
handle. It was pretty well camouflaged to begin with, but
still. It was annoying. My toy that wouldn't ever get old,
began to annoy ME. So I took out the battery and put it on
the shelf with my other curios. Eventually the cup on our
coffee table that held a bunch of pens fell over and broke
in a weird accident involving my tiger slippers, a laptop
power cord, and a pizza box. Tiki mug became the new pencil

Then, at my next birthday party, I openned a present, from
a friend who shall remain nameless and found...another tiki
mug! It was much smaller than the first, only about 8 oz
instead of the guaranteed blackout quantity of the first one.
BUT- it had the same little button on the handle that, when
pressed, would make the mug growl out:

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"Wow! Where did you GET this?"

"I found it in a thrift store and thought of you. I didn't
even know it could talk."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

So, yes. I went and got the first mug, and put in a fresh
battery and we had way too much fun making the two mugs say
"I am Lono, you bastards!" at each other, in chorus, at other
guests, tag team, etc. It didn't get old. Sonya eventually
put a stop to it, and said she was going to bed. Curious
thing, and yes I checked. (We *do* keep lists of who comes
to our parties) And it was curious. No one who was there that
night was one of people for whom the head didn't work. There
were people who had never seen the first one before (except
maybe on the shelf, holding pencils), but absolutely nobody
from those for whom it didn't work. Oddly enough (though it
wasn't odd at all, in retrospect), that's how it continued to
be. For the people for whom the first head "worked", they both
worked. When people came over for whom it hadn't work,
neither of them ever did, and annoyingly, I could never find
the button (on either of them) to activate them when that
happened. And of course, somehow, the two groups could
never seem to compare notes *with* each other or check out
either of the tiki heads when present at the time. Either
no one remembered or something always happened to distract
us when the opportunity was there.

Oh, and the annoying stuff started back up again, but this
time with both of them, especially, but not exclusively,
when I was alone.

One morning, Sonya went downstairs to leave for work where
she found them both chattering away in the living room.
"I am Lono, you bastards!" "I am Lono, you bastards!" "I
am Lono, you bastards!" It *was* going to be a morning
where I'd get to sleep in. Instead, I was awakened by her
throwing both of them onto my sleeping form, and saying "I
thought you said you knew how to turn these fucking things
OFF!" and then storming off to work. Once I'd realised
what had happened, I was confused. I'd thought I HAD taken
out the batteries.

"I am Lono, you bastards!" is what they both said.

More weird stuff like this kept happening with them.
Eventually, I took out the batteries from both of them,
and put them in the giveaway box. Then the morning after
we'd have people over, we'd find the two heads back on the
shelf, or the coffee table, or once, in the library.
Eventually, EVENTUALLY I managed to convince Sonya that it
was not I who was taking them out of the giveaway box. She
doesn't quite believe me when I say that it isn't I who puts
batteries in them. I *do*, sometimes, for parties, but I'm
*sure* I take them out afterwards. Sonya says I'm just
forgetting, but no, I'm not. These things are weird.

We keep wanting to throw them out or give them away, but
something always comes up to distract us or, honestly, they
make me laugh again. They really are too hilarious to just
toss. But I have to confess, I don't want to keep them
either. This weird stuff is freaking me out just a little
too much sometimes. Oh, and the weirdest thing: even though
we have two different versions of these items:

"Tiki head that quotes Hunter S. Thompson"

you won't find any more of them online. I can't tell you
how often I've tried to put in search terms to figure who
made these things or where they came from. Nobody has any
and nobody even has a clue that such a thing exists. Not
even Oriental Trading Co. Yes, I've called. So,
despite the fact that two exist, one from an anonymous
drink buyer, and one found in a thrift store,
it would seem that these are the ONLY two that exist.
I have both of them. And, it seems, I can't get rid of them.

A Bardic version of "Made Ya Look!"

I was out busking in Old Town Alexandria the other day, and this fellow stops to listen as I'm playing some Grateful Dead on my banjo. ("I Know You, Rider", I think- not one of their originals, but a staple in their repertoire)
So he tips me when I'm done and remarks (as many have) about how much I resemble Jerry Garcia. "You're the very first person to notice" I tell him, which confuses him a little, so I had some mercy and explained that actually yes, I get that compliment a lot. The fellow then enthusiastically starts telling me that a lot of people don't know that Garcia was also a banjo player.
I reply that "Oh, yes. I do know that, and he was a damned good one too!"
So at about that time, his wife (I presume) comes out of the shoe store that I perform by and doesn't quite take him by the ear to get him to go. He sadly says he needs to say goodbye, and that it was really nice to meet me. I reach out to shake his hand and tell him that it was good to meet him too. But at the last second I stop and pull my hand back and say: "Oh, and by the way, I *didn't* fake my death so that I can hang out here. See, I have all of my fingers!" I held up my hand to show him. Jerry Garcia was missing his right middle finger from a childhood accident. But... when it's cold out, I usually wear a glove on my right hand with only my picking fingers cut out. So you can only really *see* two of my actual fingers, and my thumb. "Or *do* I?" I slyly added, and made a little twilight zone noise. Then I shook his hand...

...And as I did, I could feel him try to check out if I *did* in fact have all of my fingers.

I waited until he was out of earshot to laugh.

And one day... there it was (I found my first two sonnets)

Yesterday, on FB, I vaguely alluded to going off to search for two small (but important-to-me) pieces of my past. Back in high school, I wrote a pair of sonnets that one of my teachers managed to finagle the Bowie Blade into publishing. I've since (I thought) lost any copies of them. Having had no luck at the Bowie Library or the Blade itself. I finally found microfilm copies of the paper at the Hyattsville library! I spent four hours yesterday staring and scrolling, but to no avail. See, I wasn't quite sure what *year* this happened, so I just started in summer of 1977 and went until I had to stop (in 1979 somewhere) for dinner.

BUT- when I got home, on a hunch, I started pawing through my box of paper mementos from the period (again- previous efforts failed) and I actually found the very first issue of Bowie High's literary magazine (to which I and several friends JUMPED at the chance to contribute), and there, among other fond memories, I found them: my first two actual sonnets!

So here, for Throwback Thursday- a glimpse of 17 year old proto-me trying his hand at a sophisticated poetry form:

Steve Haug

Reflected into many forms of light
By dust and clouds that hover near the sea
The suns sets now with many colours bright
And signals brilliantly the night to be

The "outside" of the dome was bathed in red
The colours of the dusk that did abound
Were hidden from the occupants by lead
That cased the city's shield all around

They left the surface long ago, 'tis told
To seek a refuge from the hostile land
That was destroyed back in the days of old
By foolish leaders with a heavy hand

Sunset which is such a visage fair
Is caused by the pollutants in the air


A Trashy Poem
Steve Haug

Among the boundless void of time and space
There went a planet floating in the black
Whose atmosphere sustained no life or race
All things endowing life, the world did lack

Since life this barren world could not sustain
Another world then satisfied it's need
Gigantic ships were sent that did contain
The wastes of life on which they could not feed

And from this toxic garbage left behind
Ingredients of all organic sort
Combined there forming those of larger kind
Crude life forms did this world at last support

Evolving from some garbage long disowned
Now planet Earth has garbage of it's own

Spring(?) 1980
And from this relic and others in that box, I've finally pieced together the timeline that I needed. I took a creative writing class in the Fall of '79. (where I wrote the first one, I think) Then in spring of1980, one of my previous English teachers agreed to sponsor the start of the magazine. I jumped on it along with several of my friends and some other kids from the school and we did it: the contributions, the layout, the editing, the printing etc. It was called "etc..." So it was in the Spring of 1980 that Mrs Pippin SURPRISE! made me a published author. I didn't know she had done this until my Dad noticed that my name was in the paper. I never really found out what motivated her to do this, or why the Blade saw fit to go along. In the couple of years' worth of paper I saw before this, I saw no evidence of this ever having happened before. I don't know if it's happened since.

So I think I'll still go and try and find that issue of the Bowie Blade and make a photocopy of the page. But the important part of this is that, despite having written dozens of sonnets lately, I really wanted to somehow salvage my first two.

Mischief Managed!


Wrote this this morning both as a protest and a protest, and possibly as a prognostication. Yes, it's okay to forward this, but PLEASE credit me with it. If this is seditious, I want the history books to get it right.

Steve Haug

That is what I've titled this free verse poem
Which is not to say that I actually know that
Or that I can prove that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

A quote I've often heard (attributed to Goebbels)
Claims that a lie repeated often enough gets taken as truth
That's why claiming that
Could be bad. Because if it's not true that
Repeating the phrase
Or circulating it as a rumour, could have people believing that
When it's not actually true that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

It shouldn't really be a big deal if
or not
He can be and love whom he pleases
But the problem, if
Is that when he was a Governor
He constantly advanced policies that hurt homosexuals
And now that he's Vice President, he has even more access
To the kind of power that would advance this agenda on a wider scale
Which means that if
His policies, and his blatantly homophobic public statements
Are not only harmful to others, but self-destructively hypocritical
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

I'm willing to bet though, that it will turn out to be true that
It turns out, ironically, that the more anti-gay someone is,
The more fervent their public hostility to gay rights,
The more active they are in harassing and disenfranchising gay people,
The more likely they are to turn out to be gay themselves
So the suggestion that
Might not be so off-base after all
Only time will tell if it's actually true or not that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true
I know that

Claiming, whether true or false that
Could be harmful to him
And possibly his family
It could cost him his career if it were widely believed that
Which would be especially tragic and cruel if it were not true that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

So, if we don't know for sure that
We shouldn't go around repeating
Or spreading rumours that
Simply claiming that

That would be wrong,