Pittsburgh Through the Windshield

So, I’m watching the first season of Inspector Morse (for absolutely no reason), and during one of the episodes, they show a poster for Last Tango in Paris. That movie was (ehh, slightly) before my time, but it of course called to mind the song Last Night in Paris. That was of my time, and it dislodged a few memories…

… Back in my Pittsburgh days, Brother Ra and I used to do everything together. (Too many things, some might say. Five or six in particular, in fact, but those are stories I’m not telling.)

Besides Super Mario Brothers, Queensryche, and thermonuclear Mac and Cheese, one of the things we used to do was drive the circumference of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s freeway system is one of those where you can orbit the city center like a roundabout, without ever taking a freeway exit.

For the price of 20 – 30 minutes and half a gallon of gas, you could circumnavigate the Three Rivers, take in the sights of Pittsburgh, and – if you happened to be in your early twenties – get your angst and frustrations out via a nice fast car ride to a background of very loud music. Ra knows his cars, driving, and music, and he was a very … therapeutic … driver.

When I left Pittsburgh to drive out to Cali, he saw me off with one of his mix-CDs: “Pittsburgh Through the Windshield”. It was a cross-section of the tracks we used to blast during our drives. It was a tribute to our Tin Lizzy Therapy. It was a reminder that we’d always have a way to deal with the bullshit life threw at us. Most of all, it was one of only three CDs that kept me company on the cross-country drive.

These are the memories that define us. Build some for those you love.

Here, I’ll help get you started:

Crystal Ball
Lunatic Fringe
Whatever I Fear
Story of a Girl
Crazy On You
Last Time in Paris
Livin’ on a Prayer
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
The Idiot Kings
Break It Down Again
One Thing Leads To Another
Heart of Glass
Meet Virginia
What You Need

(the ones in bold are the ones I particularly recommend checking out.)

… Don’t Get To Be Kong

Complete At Last!

(For KNH.)

… Just silliness, really. Also it was an excellent reintroduction to music production in general, and my music production software in particular. And it was kind of fun.

I tried to end it with a recording of the Eight O’Clock Marin Coyote Howl, but I wasn’t quite able to capture it when I tried. Just as well, perhaps. Some things are better left in real-time reality.


The music is a cover of a Joe Cartoon Song.
The cover is clean, but Joe Cartoon is not for children and is Not Safe For Work.)

Dancing Monkey…

I had the honor of being at a good friend’s [redacted]th birthday party recently, and I can’t remember if I was asked to bring guitars (I think I was?) or if I just brought them for fun anyway. But I brought ’em, so there they were.

Turned out another one of their* close friends (they had quite a few) was the only person they had actually slated to play music. Either his playing was prearranged, or he was just an ad-hoc performer with an actual repertoire (as opposed to someone who just bum-rushes the stage any time he sees an opening for a bass player…)

Point is, it came down to him on a guitar and me on a bass. And of course I’d only met the guy on stage, so we didn’t have time to do any prearranged practicing or planning (hahahaha like that ever happens) so I just basically followed his lead, as I usually do when I meet people on stage.**

His repertoire was basically the Grateful Dead, and Johnny Cash. I’ve been playing jazz and hip-hop for the last twenty years. We made it work.

One of my abiding memories of that jam was when he was talking to me about the next song we were going to play, and he was describing it like “… and it’s another Johnny Cash song. It’s a country song, basically,” to which I replied: “Not any more.”

(I’m sure I got Johnny to roll over in his grave, but I’m even more certain he did it to the beat.)

All the above was to say: I just realized what my next song will be. It will be a cover of what’s basically a country song+. The song totally doesn’t need to be covered – it was done right the first time – except it’s also a message I want for the children, and I’m afraid it’s a bit unacceptable to younger ones in its current form, so that’s the only reason I’m redoing the song.

And Jamie, I will heed well the first rule of recording a cover song.

Update: Done!

* I’m not being intentionally gender-coy here; the birthday party was for one half of a couple, but I actually only met them, or had ever seen them, as a couple: so “they” are more or less the way I know them.

** Which happens more often than it has any right to, and I’m grateful every time.

+ Not any more.


So we had a little writing crew at a former workplace, and the group’s founder had us each bring in a writing exercise for the group.

I remembered one of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories: Calliope, from the Dream Country collection. In it … well, there’s a panel where Mr. Gaiman just drops a slew of awesome story premises, without pomp or circumstance. I couldn’t imagine a better starting place for a writing exercise.

I love the idea of someone who inherits a library card to the Library of Alexandria, but that wasn’t the one I rolled with. Instead, I give you the Werefish.


So I had a few hours at my disposal on Boxing Day. Having no particular plans, I started walking. Presently I found myself at a train station, so I took RTA to downtown Cleveland to see what was there.

Bitter cold wind, was what was there. I was a cold ass in some cold-ass wind.

Now that I was there, though, I wasn’t about to turn around and get back on the train home. Seemed just a little too fruitless. So I picked a destination at random; a destination five blocks away.

Those were the longest five blocks of recent memory. Two blocks in, I was ready to call it. It was bitter freezing cold, I had no business out here, and my destination was arbitrary. I kept thinking: get back on a train and go home!

Just then I passed by an outdoor skating rink. That’s right, folks, this 17 degree weather wasn’t cold enough for some – they had to come out and PLAY in it, skating on a surface which was somehow, impossibly, colder then the one through which I was suffering. So who was I to moan about the weather?

Also, that reminded me – I used to live in this weather. This was what I had been looking forward to all year: a nice walk, in the cold weather, snow on the ground. Well, here it was. And here I was. (Which just goes to show that you can get what you want and still not be very happy*.)

Also, you can view the past through nostalgia-colored glasses, but if you do get the chance to pick up some pieces of the past, be very careful to look past the romance. See it for what it is. If it still seems like a good idea, then go full force; just be careful to look clearly.

After all that, I finally get to my destination (which proved to be completely worth it, by the way) and the second I take off my jacket and sit down, I’m warm again. A little nip on my toes, perhaps, but otherwise I’d soon forgotten all about the frigid misery I’d just left outside.

Which brings me to my final point: by and large, bad things pass. Misery, cold, hunger, anger, pain: get past the triggers and often you can forget it ever happened; that’s how we humans are built.

With that in mind, don’t let anything distract you from your goals. If you succeed, then your obstacles won’t seem nearly as big in hindsight as they do now. I realize they probably seem insurmountable right now. And hey, they might well be. But try to look at them through a lens of already being where you’re going. If you can smash through your current situation, a better one is probably waiting for you right behind it.