I M e

A few months later and I was starting to feel good again. I was forty-something days into burying myself in Sam Harris and Joe Rogan podcasts and was beginning to get into the groove of a loose and not-so serious meditation routine.

Sam was getting me to be in the present. Random shit moved me, like a woman on MUNI with a shaky hand or long walks with just the right amount of downhill. I started to understand why people love taking psychedelics. Awareness of the present moment is fucking sweet.

But there was one thing Sam Harris couldn’t convince me of. You have no head. There is no writer of thoughts. No person sitting back there shuffling cards. The very concept of “I” is just an appearance in consciousness, like a smell or a thought.

Abandon your ego! Basically what everyone says when they come back from Burning Man. It seemed weird but I gave it a go, trying to convince myself on a crowded bus that subjective and objective could be the same, but bumping up against people just reinforced a sense of clear and distinct boundaries.

I kept at it. And by some stroke of luck ended up at a party outside of Pescadero – a Hipcamp designed for ayuascha retreats, fully operational with drums, meditation pillows, and a stripper pole.

Also a swing set

Beers were had. Weed was smoked. Dinner was neglected. And at some point a guy handed me a piece of torn up paper and said, “please write down who you think you are.” He went around the fire telling everyone to write down their occupation or their name or whatever they wanted really. I was too far gone to be able to see where any of it was going and so feeling very clever I wrote down in terrible, drunk chicken scratch, “I am me,” and then slunk off to my tent.

Things starting to get blurry

When I woke up the next morning my head didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I looked outside and saw Charley rolling up his rain fly.

“What time did you Irish exit last night?” he asked. I told him it was right around the time some guy asked me to write down who I was on a piece of paper.

Charley laughed and told me they’d thrown the pieces of paper into the fire and watched them turn into smoke, and suddenly all I could think about was what must have gone up in flames – I am me.

Treasure Trove

I dislike when music blogs come clean about not posting.  It’s always something like, “Sorry been crazy busy with work, haven’t been able to blog in awhile but here’s a new one from…” and then the recommendation.

It feels kind of disingenuous. Nothing should get in the way of posting if it means that much to you, right? Work-shit, relationships, even fun should take a back seat to blogging – if you really care about it. Not posting probably means you shouldn’t have a blog.

Harsh, dude.

Usually it happens a few times in a row. You can almost see the blogger connecting the dots – noticing the pattern. It happened to Auditory Remembrance, Tiny Rockets, and others. I have folders of dormant music blogs.

But here I am drafting something up after not blogging for two months – tail between my legs – wondering what I could possibly say to peak anyone’s interest after not writing for two months.

The truth is I simply haven’t felt like writing about music. And to force it felt like a disservice to all the good that has come from blogging consistently. Not good as in Davey Pageviews good. Or good as in attracting attention. But good as in committing to something. Good as in loosening a creative valve to let it flow freely.

For some reason today it was happening. By some good grace I started listening to a playlist from longtime Afmth fan, Seve, and one after the other, new-ness started flooding in. Add in a little weed and a glass of booze and a beautiful concoction of loose energy took over. I think it was the Darius song that really did it. Even one step beyond Pryor. At least at first. It’s still early.

It’s good to find new music again. It’s been hard recently – maybe something to do with getting older – you experiment less and stick to the tried and true. If you know This Must Be the Place will work, why mess with anything else? And the harder you look, the less you find. But take your foot of the gas and sometimes new melodies start to flood in. 

Lane 8, Darius, Amtrac, Tourist – all familiar names. DJ’s we’ve featured on the blog many times. But for me this is all new.

bending notes bottoming out on a beer soaked floor

When I was fourteen I used to practice the solo from Smells Like Teen Spirit with the guitar hoisted over my left shoulder. Not looking at the frets was a total rock and roll move – one step removed from playing with your teeth or mastering the hammer ons for Eruption but come on – still very rock and roll.

I ran through the progression over and over again so it would seem effortless, but that’s about as far as my guitar playing abilities went. I was discouraged when I couldn’t make it through what I considered to be the most desirable solo of all time – the six minute mark of Stairway to Heaven – even when Damien, the instructor with curling fingernails tabbed it all out on lined paper. I sold my hefty Line 6 amp at a pawn shop for cash, and got really into digitized beats.

The EDM-blitz lasted quite awhile, but the gravitational pull of guitar is tugging me back. I’ve re-discovered classics (Crosby, Stills & Nash), geeked out on Mac DeMarco antics, and bit off pieces of jam bands, shoe gaze, and slacker rock – a slow, dystopian groove that’s both haunting and energizing (Japanese Breakfast).

I like the introspective nature of slacker rock. I like that you can lean back in your car and let the reverb wash over you. I like that I’m not listening to a long-haired rocker rifling through a million notes. It’s sleek and slow and kinda sad.

Cigarettes in Biarritz

There were mesh sandals and tracksuits. Accents. Large, boisterous families. Roller bags designed in foreign countries. A frighteningly boring safety video as we took off from Dublin. An empty Paris airport, escalators pointing in every direction. Glamorous men and women bubbling – sucking cigarettes. And us — me and Kelsey watching and sucking cigarettes as well, doing our best to blend in, maybe even add something to the mix.

In Biarritz there was pumping surf and sun-bathing women. The very first night we stood by the ocean, clutching beer, listening to a DJ play disco with ink running down his arms. He swayed and flicked the mixer – someone in the crowd cooed.

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It felt good to be away from the entrance of a restaurant or the sliding doors of a bus. Ordering beer was easy, but other things – really basic shit – like asking for water or the bill, was still awkward.

But somehow we’d woken up in a central vein of French coolness, masked by cigarette smoke and a speedy, hip-spinning beat. The music swelled – getting faster – two women approached the mixing board with carefree intention.

I lit another cigarette, surely the last of the night, and passed it to Kelsey.  The smoke curled around us, rising to join other trails of smoke winding up towards the hill. With each puff I felt more at ease, just another glowing ember in the night.

Played an escapade just like you

All it took was some traffic outside of Monterey for me to start second-guessing the trip. One by one, radio stations were cutting out. I clung onto a hippie based out of San Luis Obispo playing The Grateful Dead for awhile, but then I swung around a cliffside and he cut out too.

I wasn’t lonely. Just a bit bored. I’d made this same mistake before, forgetting to bring CD’s or make an offline playlist – misremembering what hours of silence feel like. They kind of eat at you.

I’d just left Santa Cruz – which was insane. Perfect waves – thick ropes, round and symmetrical, sucked kelp right off the ocean floor, but with so many people in the water complaining about all the people in the water, I gunned it for Big Sur.

A park ranger eyed my Hurley t-shirt wearily and said she did have an open site. A guy standing nearby looked shocked – told me I was lucky as hell. He had a potbelly framed by a sweaty baseball tee and a beer in-hand. He seemed friendly with the rangers and mentioned several times he was having a party later if any of us wanted to stop by.

I set up camp and drove down the road to surf before dark. There’s a current at the south end of Sand Dollar that whips you out into the lineup. It saves a lot of paddling but it’s disorienting. Within seconds I was a hundred yards out at sea – umbrellas shrinking into tiny, colorful dots.

The water was shallow and clear as vodka, but the more I looked, the more I disliked seeing the grains of sand beneath me, the peaks and valleys, divots, and caves. I felt my heart pounding in my wetsuit.

When I got back to camp, I met up with George, the guy with the baseball tee who looked shocked about my campsite. He said he had some, “tweaky bud.”

I followed him to a clearing where a fire was roaring. I expected to see others gathered around but there only a few dusty tree stumps. He handed me a beer and we started talking about Big Sur. George was from a town inland and used to come here as a grom for birthday parties, surf trips, or just to get wild.

“Now we got fuckin’ trailers rolling around and kids spilling out,” he said. 

The fire spit and George smiled slyly, the gaps in his teeth shining in the moonlight. He swung a bottle of vodka clutched in his right hand towards the night sky.

“We’re in fucking Disney World, man! We’re in the fucking blue tea cup goin’ round and round.”

He paused, as if lamenting a lost brother.

“But as least we’re in the blue tea cup and not the fucking pink one.”

George’s musings got increasingly more scattered. He asked if the moon ever reminded me of a frog holding onto a tailgate, told a story about a time he’d caught a fish to impress a Hawaiian, stumbled through a shitty joke, spoke dearly about his love of kayaking, and made me promise I’d look up a waitress in Lake Tahoe – his girl.

After a few beers, he was reluctant to see me go. I told him I needed to go write, and thanked him for the good fire. Truthfully, I was starting to wonder. He told me that the guy who was supposed to meet him that night was also named Duncan.

I brought my buck-knife into my sleeping bag just in case George turned out to be a nut, realizing that the weed was probably making me anxious – tweaky. And of course, I woke up the next morning to gorgeous sunlight and the sounds of kids squealing and RV’s beeping, and realized that we were in a fucking theme park – at least there were still a few of us weird enough to visit alone.