The Pause That Refreshes
Every place has its own energy that attracts people who are sympathetic to it. The vibrations just gel with a person while they're passing through on vacation or visiting for business. A lot of people fall in love with a region this way and I think it has a lot to do with our individual senses and how we receive input from the world around us. There's a lot more going on than meets the eye, but I don't have to tell you that, right?
I go through life with a plan as much as I always am prepared to improvise if life suddenly looks over at you and says, "you wanna take one?" You don't say, "no", you take one and make it go the best you got. That pressure forms diamonds if you do it enough. Good for musical practice and good for daily life hacks. Just take the break. See what you can do with it.
Some of the highlights of this tour have been getting to sit and visit with people from all walks of life and many different places in the country. From retired teachers at a coffee shop in Charleston, Illinois to the crew of a gastro-brew-pub in Granite Falls, North Carolina, I've had the luxury of time and the invitation of extraordinary people to enjoy getting to know the United States of America from the inside out. Apart from all of the media bluster and aside from the latest viral tirade on social media, this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Living in the hearts and souls, faces and voices of these folks I've sat and hung out with. That's been the sweet spot at the end of a long day's travel or after a crazy gig and I'm all wound up. It makes being away from Jae so much easier when there are lots of friendly folks around. I haven't seen signs of either Trump or Clinton's America. This is an America that exists at a grass-roots level. Hard-working, forward-thinking, genuinely nice and unironic citizens who don't feel archaic when wistfully pining for the good old days. Tougher to find those people in the cities every day. They're a lot more popular in the country.
Been seeing this mountain all week. It's probably the nicest view I've had outside of a hotel window; something about Tennessee just speaks to me. The energy exchange is great, even in the cities. I feel rooted, grounded and peaceful. This is all really good when you're holed up in a hotel room waiting on expensive repairs to be rendered.
Life hit the "pause" button and I took that as an opportunity to dig deep and keep planting seeds. All of this new software to learn, boy, better get to it. When my old donated laptop croaked in mid-July, my office suddenly had to be run from my iPhone. Biting the bullet, and secretly happy to be getting into a new computer, I bought a MacBook Pro ($2400) then needed to get current versions of Final Cut Pro X ($299) and Logic Pro X ($199). New audio interface ($99) and superdrive ($89) plus backup drive of old laptop ($189) and assorted cables and software apps later and it was $3000 to get caught up with the rest of the world. That's a necessary cost of doing business for yourself and, ever since I reconfigured the business finances and started working on every aspect, I've been able to more clearly see where flow is coming from and where it's going. How spending can be decreased and how profit can be kept at market levels, yet competitive. It's a brave new world where people can increasingly call their own shots and more individuals are taking up the challenge of being a business owner.
At the heart and soul of any exchange is the concept of "value." What do you give for your currency and what do you get when you spend it? What is your currency and how does it relate to your day to day adventure?
The ringtone of "value" played over and over in my head this week as I dug down deep into the new programs. Setting up render folders, pushing buttons, sliding faders and consulting how-to guides in various places online. I'd heard that the learning curve between FCPX and LPX was a tough one, but the user interfaces mirror those those that have been used in the past and is fairly intuitive. If not, there's probably a YouTube video explaining how to do it. The cyclical nature of information and its effects on society were front and center as I produced a handful of "Dulcimerica" episodes that had been held up in the queue since the laptop crashed. Between the new software and operating system, it's breathtaking how quick the rendering process is. It used to take me an average of eight hours to produce an episode. Now, at least on the post-production side, it takes about an hour from edit to public posting. That's a serious amount of time I just bought back each project. I feel like I just stumbled upon a secret eighth day, man.
When a little investment in time results in a huge savings of that very same time, it's like "ohhhh, I see...."
Time can be seen as money and money can be seen as time. And not. But often, yes. We claw for it, scramble for it. In the immortal lines of Willie Dixon, "some people lies about it, some people cries about it, some people dies about it." Love it or hate it, it's a unifying constant between us all, some kind of material accumulation, proof of our value to someone, or many someones, who then give us more of it so that we may continue the cycle. If it wasn't cash it would be beads. If not beads, then services. Everybody's gotta be good at something and everybody's got value. When your personality becomes a commodity then you are thinking very carefully about what it is that you're selling. And if you're selling something that's not selling, then you have to check into what the problem is. That's as vague a metaphor as I can fly.
I've been running my own "shop" since I was 18 years old. Cut my first record and started a mail order catalog to sell it internationally. I've kept after it all my life and finally went full time in 2008, looking back to marvel at all the crazy odd jobs that I've had. Fast food, theme park operations, tour guide, airport shuttle driver, sex shop security guard, alarm service tech, waiter, internet content producer, videographer, all the while pushing along to a dream of not working for anyone else. The same dream that so many of us share and fight for each and every day. One of the guys that I met in NC said that he went back to school to gain more knowledge in order to be the "one that others work for." Everybody's got their specialty and some work better on a team. Some folks ride the horse and wear the hat. I'm one of those kinda guys. I can ride in formation no problem, but I prefer to trailblaze, if you know what I mean.
Imua was acting a little funny after the nice man put new plugs in her and, after $355, found out that there was an internal issue with the engine and that I needed a rebuild. Hoping to pick her up today to the tune of around $12,000. It's been a very Zen kind of week. Working here at the desk in the hotel room, every now and again glancing up and seeing the mountain across the way. At certain times of the day, it would glow brilliantly against a cobalt sky. Other times, it was rimmed with wisps of fog against a gray backdrop of patchy morning gauze. I've been standing up occasionally to stretch, walking over and contemplating the mountain as I continued to run operations from a strangely immobile command center. So strange. I'm used to my office being on wheels and reacting to the gusting of wind or vibrating to the sound of passing vehicles. This setting was so strangely isolated, but in a clinical, white-noise manner infused with systemic hums and vibrations, shudders, hums, clicks, ticks, rushes and washes through ducts and filters, pipes and windows. Quiet but not quiet. Still but not still.
Still enough to focus on the next step and not fret over the recent news. The price comes with an extended warranty, peace of mind that we're starting from square one, it's an investment in the future of road touring; a future that looks solid, thanks to the many out there who place value upon what I do and gladly trade your currency to me in exchange for the things I do that produce value for you. I always hope that my offerings are worth something to anyone who would invest a little time, but it's quite nice to just focus on the ones who embrace my art, always remaining thankful for longtime supporters and new fans. When I started my business so many years ago, it was a pipe dream to even have enough to buy a motorhome, let alone over $10,000 to fix it. Sure, my savings is now depleted, but at least there were savings there. Without people assigning value to what I do, for whatever reason, I'd have to quickly figure it out.
Thankfully, all I really need to do is keep figuring out new ways to learn how to create better music. It seems like the rest just follows suit. That might be a new way to invoke the essence of following your bliss.
Heading to Woodburn, Indiana tonight to be there for Midwest Uke Fest where I'll be teaching alongside Lil' Rev, Wendy Songe and Richard Ash. I don't know how I'm getting there yet, but that's part of what R.E.M. called "life's rich pageant", sometimes the fun is in not knowing and, even better still, not sweating it.