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Saturday 9 August 2003

Moving on Out

Other Minds' Newest Board Member

Last Tuesday, I was elected to the board of Otherminds. I was asked to speak about myself and had no idea of what to say. I knew that I would have to, but when asked, my mind went blank. Things that I could have mentioned and didn't were numerous. Despite being in the presence of the founder of the Just Intonation Network, I did not mention my membership nor my work on the Java Just Intionation Calculator. Nor did I talk intellgiently about the music I write. But I did talk about the history of the tuba and related brass instruments. I guess Charles must have said good things about me. anyway, it's clear that I'm going to have to write a spiel and memorize it. I'll need to have different versions of it depending on how long I need to speak.

Afterwards, Carl Stone showed up and he, Charles and Jim Newman were going to go out to dinner. Christi and I were waiting around to go to dinner with Mitch, so we all ended up going together to a Tapas place at 16th and Guerro where Carl Stone's cousin's husband is the head chef. This translated into free desserts. Charles once again impressed upon me the need to write down witty things that people say and to keep a diary so later when someone asks about what composers that I've met (because they are wirtting the difinite biography of witty things said by a particular famous composer), I'll be able to regale them with facinating stories about going to restaurants after board meetings. With that in mind, it was a delightful evening. Carl Stone is very charming. I had met him once before at Charles' Christimas or New Years party and he remembered me from then. He's been teaching in Japan. He was talking about how terrible meetings there were, but as he cannot read or write Japanese, most of it went over his head and he spent his time in meetings by responding to email. He said they spent over an hour on one occasion discussing the locations of ashtrays around one of the buildings.

The food was great and sufficient vegan-ized things were available. It was nice to get a last visit with Mitch. after dinner, I hopped on Bart to go stay at Polly's house. "Naiomi" also arrived. (Name changed for reasons that will become clearer as the story progesses.)

she said, "let's go to Vegas, man

The next morning, we got the rental van and drove it back to Polly's house. Actually, Naomi drove it. We weren't in a hurry, but she drove as if we were. She was a terrifying driver. I swear she alomst rolled the van. Well, I dunno how hard something has to pull to the side before it actually rolls, but it was the most sideways force I've yet experienced. "Oh, it doesn't corner well." she said. As she was driving in the fast lane down the freeway at highspeeds, she was about five feet behind the car in front of her. "Oh it doesn't break well." she said. We got mightily lost, but finally arrived to load the gear and set off for Vegas, and, thankfully, Polly drove the whole way.

It was my first time seeing the Mojave desert. It's got big basins surrounded by hills. Really big, crater-like basins. And darn, is it hot! It's hot all the way to Vegas. Really darn hot. We got to the Vegas strip just as the sun was setting. In case you have never been there (and this was my first time), It's not nearly as glamorous as the movies make it to be. At least the end I was on was not as glamorous. I think "glamorous" means "a lot of lightbulbs." We were staying at the Rivera Hotel. The bellhop cmae to help us with our gear and started dropping everything. Polly made a wild grab and caught her mixer as it tumbled towards the pavement. We clustered nervously around the lacsidasical belhop, on the ready in case he dropped anything else. After he left, I anxiously called Christi and asked her to repack all the boxes of dishes that I had just packed. Polly came and introduced me to Robert Dick. We chatted for a few minutes and then they went to catch up. Naiomi and I decided to go to Circus Circus. I know of this casino because of the movie Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas. In the movie, the lead charecter takes acid and then sits at a Merry-go-round themed bar while surrealist, scary clowns lurk menacingly. We found the rotating, merry go round bar, but there was nothing menacing about any part of the casino. It was crawling with children who were excitedly playing midway games. I was slightly disappointed. Vegas seems to be like american culture concentrate. Add water and you get a strip mall. they did have a short free show have fantastically talented jump rope acrobats. Naiomi dumped several quarters into the slot machines. She won all of the first several games that she played. Then she wanted to buy stuff, so we went to several gift shops. Then I was tired, so I went to bed, but we stayed up talking far later than I anticipated.

Naiomi and I slept late the next morning, although Polly got up when the clock radio, set by the previous occupant, went off at 7:00. Christi called and said that I could have Tiffany's Bjork ticket if I could get back in time. Bjork was playing on Friday night in San Francisco. I hadn't bought my own ticket because I was supossed to drive the van home that day and didn't think I could make it in time and didn't think I could make it in time. But the offer was tempting, so I approached Naomi and asked if she would be willing to leave early and drop me and my gear off in Berkeley and take the van and Polly's gear south by heself. (Polly was planning on staying for the rest of the convention to network with flutists and try to get gigs based on our show.) As Naiomi lives in the city, I figured she would have an easy time getting back via BART. She became very excited and called someone to find out if there will still tickets to Bjork available, so she could go to the show too. She wondered if we could leave extra early. I said that 8:00 would be a good time to set out and added that I thought we could come back faster if we went throught Yosemite rather than Bakersfield. I called Christi and found out that Bakersfield really was the fastest route. Naiomi wanted to leave earlier, maybe 6:00 AM, maybe right after the show and we could drive all night? I said no, since I was anticipating staying upp all night friday night packing. I need as much sleep as I can while in Vegas. I could sleep while she drove? No, I can't sleep in cars. She was getting agitated, wanting to leave earlier and perhaps drive as fast as possible. I was becoming increasingly concerned about becoming a traffic fatality statistic, since her driving was irratic when she wasn't in a hurry. I told Polly about Naiomi's driving. We had been planning on adding my name to the rental car contract anyway (they would only allow two drivers when we got the car, and I won at rock paper scissors), so we looked up the location of the closest office for our rental agency. It was only a mile and a half down the strip, so we had the very bright idea of walking. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and the heat seemed to be at least 105 F, perhaps higher. I was dying by the time we got to the parking lot to get the paperwork, but I'm on a mission to combat my whinyness and did not contest the plan to walk. Clearly, it seems, there are times when being whiny is essential.

We walked more than a mile and a half in 45 minutes in the scortching midday heat. Only mad dogs, englishmen and stupid tourists... There are vending machines on the strip that sell water for a dollar a bottle. It's a racket. They could charge $10 a bottle. We stopped at drug store on the way and I bought cold chocolate almond milk (vegan food in vegas? arg! I was hungry hungry. All I could find for lunch was "chinese" food: boiled cabbage in sauce). We got to the car office and collapsed. We rode the bus back to the hotel. I felt like I might loose all my almond milk. We were all dizzy and sick. I stuck my head in the bathtub and ran cold water on it and then conked out for a nap and then woke and drank a lot of water. Naiomi went out, while I napped and put a lot of money into slot machines and other games of chance. She came back later and was feeling extremely ill. She was trying to "win back" the $50 she lost on her previous Vegas trip. At some point, we had a conversation about how gaming is regulated. She was surprised to hear that the amount of money the casino gets to keep and has to give away in prizes is set by state law. The odds are titled in the favor of casinos, it is not random. The slots by the door really do win more often. Seriously.

Finally, after we had all recovered, it was time for our sound check. Will, Polly's brother, was running our sound for us. He's an actor and is perfectly and completely charming. The hotel's sound guy did not understand how we were going to set up. I talked to him for several minutes but was unable to convey any meaning. Will explained that it was ok and started running cables. He set things up in the only way that the sound guy said would work. The drums were way too low in the monitors. I had several ideas about how they could be raised, but this was the only was it would work. We played a few songs and souldn't hear the drums when suddenly Will had an idea about how to raise the drum level. Later, Will told me that he knew how to have a seperate monitor mix all along, but there's a certain way that union sound guys must be approached about sound. First, they must be befriended. Polly's idea of using her brother for sound was perfectly brilliant.

We hung around waiting for our time to go on, while Naiomi pushed me to consider leaving earlier to get the Bjork show and I became pretty certain that a traffic accident was in my future. Naiomi had a pink mohawk, which strangers would comment on. Of course, making comments to strangers about their hair is rude, even if it's as benign as telling her that she should spike it up instead of letting it lie flat. She had confessed to me that she wanted to punch people who made comments. In my past, I had a blue mohawk and when I had it, many, many peple commented on it. People would regularly tell me to spike it up or ask how it got to be blue and generally wanted to ask questions about it. Such is life when one has a mohawk. Naiomi just got angry. She also became extremely angry when the elevator stopped for someone on the way down and the guy got on a different elevator that also stopped. "That asshole stopped our elevator and didn't even get on it, he got on that other one first." I suggested that it might not be his fault and perhaps it was the fault of the hotel for summoning multiple elevators on a single button push. "You think so?" she asked, quite seriously and still angry at the hapless elevator traveller.

anyway, while we were waiting to go on, the opnening act was becoming alarmed since it was time for him to go on and his bassist had not yet arrived. since folks at home keep telling me what a great bassist I am, I told the guy that I could fill in, especially if he had charts that I could read. Thank goodness that his bassist arrived. That guy was one of the finest bassists that I've ever heard. He was playing a five string Carvin bass with a fantastic tone. Since the band had never played togteher before, the flutist would play the bassline to him once at the start of the song and the bassist would play it perfectly, as funky as you've ever heard, occassionaly making appropriate and highly funky fills. In nearly every song, he also improvised extremely textured and intricate bass solos. In one of them, we was simultaneously playing an improvised bassline and tapping out a solo on the high strings. It was synchopated and perfectly in time. That is what a great bassist can do. And that guy was just another Vegas bassist, once of hundreds if not thousands of bassist in this country who make a living just playing gigs as needed or as a studio musician. The world is crawling with highly proficient, professional and completely musical bassists, of which I am not one. Not that I don't appreciate compliments. I must not beleive my own hype.

So I spent the whole first act comparing myself to the amazing bassist and consequently, when I got on stage, I was terrified of screwing up. I normally get stage fright. My heart beats fast. My palms sweat. I act foolishly before I go on. When I play with Tennis Roberts, I calm down as soon as it becomes clear that a train wreck is not going to destory us. However, Polly had a much larger audience and I psyched myself out more than usual. I thought I must have looked terrified through the first several songs. It didn't help that Naiomi was playing guitar very tentatively and came in late several times. She ended one song many bars too early and, of course, the drum track kept going. I felt like we were in danger of slipping from the beat. Normally, it is the repsoncibility of the bassist to keep the beat together (so says Bass Player Magazine), but it is doubly so when the drum are pre-set. Anyway, as a consequence of being highly fearful, I was also highly focussed. I knew exactly where I was in every song and exactly where the beat was to a degree that I don't normally in practice. I realized that I was playing very solidly. I was on FIRE! And as I became confident, the break came and Polly did some solo pieces without backup and I got nervous all over again and was definitely not on fire during the second half. As the show went on, I felt like my playing was getting weaker, but it was getting later and later. We didn't start until almost midnight, so by the time I was on the wrong beat on the last song, there were only five people in the audience. If I'm going to screw up, I'm going to do so as confidently as possible in front of only a few people. I tried to look as if the one was not ususally on the one.

afterwards, the few remaining folks, who were all friends of Polly's talked to us and when I said that I had been pretty much terrified the entire time and been off-beat on the last song, they said that I looked "cool as a cucumber" and that it had all sounded very solid. And it was easy to tell at the start of the show that the audience was loving it (at the end of the show it was very late and everyone had gone to bed). Several people were chair dancing. There was cheering when Polly announced that she was going to play a Dead Can Dance cover. Polly was definitely on fire. She had a great stage presence throughout. The folks watching soaked up every naunce and would go anywhere that Polly lead them. she was completely fabulous.

Polly's mother, Polly, Robert Dick, Naiomi and I went to get beers afterwards. Robert is extremely friendly and it was very nice to get to talk to him. He told me to say to Ron Kuivilla and Alvin Lucier from him. Polly's mother is also very charming. She was extremely proud of Polly's performance. She is really sweet. Finally, we went to go to sleep. At 3:00 AM, I was sleeping sitting up, leaning over my gear, waiting for my turn to use the bathroom. Polly went back out to do more partying and just Naiomi and I were left in the hotel room. She was setting the alarm to off earlier than our agreed-upon time. I said, "Naiomi, there's no way I'm going to be able to get up before 8:00 tommorrow morning. I've got too much stuff to do this weekend. I'm moving and stuff. I'm really sorry, but this is why I didn't buy my own ticket to the concert." I then passed out as I said "goodnight."

Naiomi did not say anything. She did not turn out the light. As far as I know, she didn't move. I felt tingling at the back of my neck and finally turned to look at her. she was glaring at me with narrowed eyes and a bitter rage. She said that she wanted to leave at our agreed-upon time. I had been thinking about our schedule and had realized that there was no way we could get to an 7:00 PM concert in San Francisco if we left Vegas at 8:30 AM. There was likely to be traffic at both ends and we had to unload the gear in Berkeley and Burlingame and then return the van to the San Jose airport. I could clearly picture the trip. I would be driving, refusing to give up the drivers seat while Naiomi angrily urged me to go faster and constantly offering to drive and finally demanding that she should drive, which I could not let her do or I would end up rolled over on the side of the road. I could also picture the return trip if we left later. It would be exactly the same except she would be bitter towards me from the start. Maybe we would ride in silence the entire way. I was already counting the hours until I never had to see her again and it looked the last hours were going to be very long. So I declined leaving at the earlier time and said goodnight again and fell back asleep.

The light still did not go out. I was exhausted. The day had not been relaxing. I had heat stroke and then I had been in the grips of stage fright for more than an hour long show. It was a whole lot later than I normally go to sleep. Maybe a minute later, maybe and hour, maybe a second (certainly after I had again faded from consciousness), she yelled, "I just don't see why we can't leave now and you can sleep in the car!" It's hard sleeping when one is convinced that one is about to be horribly maimed in a car wreck, even if one is already completely exhausted. And regardless, I've never been able to sleep in a car. (This conversation, btw, is recorded here very near verbatim)

"Naiomi, we're not dating. Please don't wake me up to yell at me. I can't sleep in cars. goodnight."

"Why can't you?"

"Alas, I've never been able to. Perhaps it is an as yet untreatable physiological condition. goodnight."

"I've always wanted to see Bjork and I might never again get a chnce to see her in my whole life!"

"It's highly probable that she will survive this tour and decide to emabrk upon another one during which time you would likely be presented with an oppotrunity to see her." I gave up on the ending goodnights as a good night was seeming to be an increasingly remote possibility.

"She's a huge influence of mine . . ." she started into a speech which I don't recall (and probably tuned out at the time) about how it was imperative that she go to see Bjork.

I pointed out that she had not known about the concert until I had told her about it. She argued further, hoping to wear me down rather than convince me, I think, since she was too threatening to be convicing.

"This is not my problem. Parhaps you can take a cab." I was not going to give up.

"You can't take a cab to the City from here, but You could fly!" she exclaimed, siezing upon a possible solution.

I considered it. Travelling seperately had never looked so attractive. I would get back much earlier, have time to do more packing, get to see the concert, etc. But how would I get my gear back? And moving expenses alone were going to hit my credit card pretty hard. And I was not going to give up. "Alas, it's not in my budget. Perhaps you could fly"

"Well, it's not in my budget either!" she yelled quite angrily. I think that around then she stomped out.

I lay in bed with wide open eyes and my heart racing from tremendous amounts of adrenaline. Her bitter rage plus dregs of stage fright anxiety made for a very powerful fight or flight responce. I began imagining the things that she was plotting to do to get revenge. "Fly!" my instincts ordered. But where could I go? The casinos would be open all night, but to be in there, I would have to be awake, and this entire conflict revolved around whether or not I was willing to stay awake all night. I still needed to get whatever sleep that I could if I was going to be prepared for the mvoers coming on Saturday. Tracking down Polly also seemed like a bad idea. She had her cell phone, but I doubted that she wanted to hear about squabbling in her rythm section. And due to her boy craziness and the late hour, I figured that I would probably not see her again until morning. Anyway, I was being unreasonable. Naiomi wouldn't strike out in revenge. True, she had said she wanted to assualt someone for stopping our elevator, but . . . uh . . .. I was in the grips of creeping paranoia.

A while later she came back in. I feigned sleep, but knew extactly where she was at every moment. She started digging through a drawer. I looked up. "What are you up to?" I asked.

"I'm going to see about getting a flight," she said holding her cell phone. She no longer looked murderous, but merely the kind of very annoyed that I had expected from trying to change our plans.

This was a wonderful idea! "Continental has a hub here. you can get up to 70% off last minute flights from them," I told her. She brightened and returned to her normal state and thanked me genuinely and gratefully and left again to make calls.

And I lay in bed wide awake, still considering revenge schemes she might launch upon me. She came back in later and started packing up stuff. I pretended to be alseep. What if she was stealing all my stuff? My run-away paranoia promted. That would be ok, I reasoned and stayed still. she came back two or three more times, waking me one of them to ask where the rental van keys were. Still paranoid, way beyond reason as she had completely calmed down and was acting normally and anyway had never threatened me, I wondered if she might be planning on taking the rental van. That would also be ok. Finally, around 5:00 AM, she left a perfectly friendly note to Polly and I explained that she had all her stuff and wishing us good trips home.

5:00 AM, coincidentally, is about the time that people start waking up to take showers. The pipes started making loud pipe noises, which I could not identify. I had not yet slept. I wondered if one of the flute convention attendees was fighting insomnia by practicing long tones on a newly purchased bass flute. I wondered if Naiomi had somehow sabotaged the bathroom. I wondered if I was a big loser for getting in a giant argument defending my desire to sleep, only to have it result in my getting no sleep whatsoever.

Polly came back around 7:00 and started quizically looking around for Naiomi. I sat up and explained what had happened. "She's fired." Polly said. I said that Polly shouldn't fire her on my account, sicne I was quitting anyway. Polly said, "As far as I'm concerned, she abandoned her band mates to have to deal with all the gear by themselves."

I've never been so happy to drive alone through the boring, miserable desert. And I never have to see Naiomi again.

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