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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fear and Loathing and the American Dream. Where have you seen this subject before?

I have been noticeably absent, as of late. Preoccupied as it were. And the root of this preoccupation is the fact that I have let some insanity back into my life.

Lately, I have been pretty self-centered, brooding on the aspects of my life which are not exactly working very well. I have been obsessed with how "Good" things are going with my ex-wife, rather than focusing on how I can correct the shortcomings in my own life.

Normally, people would not care or even have contact with their ex-spouse, other than the financial line of alimony or child support. Not I. We have a lovely daughter which solidifies a permanent bond between US, at least until she reaches that theoretical line of finality, her 18th birthday and her ascent into adult hood.

Although I always strive to maintain a good relationship with my ex, these days, it has been very difficult. I am faced with soaking in and witnessing the embarkation of the new life my ex has forged for herself, with the man for whom she left me.

The man who left his wife of many years and his teenage children, in their native land, the United Kingdom, to come to the US to start anew. The man who I have been told I have to get used to after all he is going to be the "step father" to my child. (Why is this so important when he has left his own children for this new life?) It is really difficult for me to pick up my daughter and witness the grandeur of the new expansive house with the deck and the outdoor hot tub, It is difficult seeing that commercial six burner cooking range in her kitchen . It is really hard to see her currently unemployed and shirtless former semi-pro cricket champion sipping a frosty cold lager smiling and waving to me, bidding me, Cheerio as he lounges next to the hot tub. The hardest part of it all comes at the end of the day, when I am sitting in the car with my daughter out side of this idyllic suburban manifestation of the American Dream. Rather than go in this house, she would rather stay with me in my rented room, for which I pay 62.50 per week. She is not yet comfortable with the new situation. She is warming up to the situation, but her heart is with me. I have told her many times, "Home is where the heart is, and as long as her heart is with me, she will always be at home." Many tears have been shed as of late, by both of us.

I went to a wedding the other night. It was a lovely affair. My sister-in-law, her sister, whom I have known since she was 5-years old, married a very nice, quiet and stable man. I wish them the best as they start a new life together. The Pastor, who was officiating the ceremony, spoke of the spirituality of the bond of marriage, it was very touching. He spoke of the give and take and the unselfishness that is required to make a marriage work. Later on, my ex, the Maid of Honor, read one of those internet forwards which ends up in your email in-box. A little ditty she had embellished regarding how marriage is like baseball. If she had only listened to her own advice and applied it to our relationship ... Of course, you know what was going through my head between hearing this and what the pastor said, Insanity. Pure unbridled, self-deprecating insanity.

Me and my little lady at the Wedding ...

Her giving Uncle Chris much needed direction ...

Why do words like those he spoke mean so much to one person and can be meaningless to another? How could she read that, with a straight face, after what we went through? As the evening wore on I saw old relatives. Her Aunt, my Mother-in-Law and her boyfriend, Cousins and other in-laws who still treat me as one of their own. I saw old friends, who kept telling me how good I look. Asking me "How am I doing?" The emphasis is always on the "doing" like they expect me to say, "Well I am having a hard time adjusting to the way things are, so I am going to what addicts do, get high in spite of it all." Okay, that is not an option, as appealing as it may sound, I have enough insanity in my life without adding that to the mix.

I always smile and give a positive response. I am doing ... OK. There are lot of good things going on in my life. The least of which is having the opportunity to share in this forum. I have readers across the US and Canada. I have one reader from the UK. Other good things in my life include, having a stable steady job with benefits. It is what it is, I'll never get rich there, but it has good hours and serves as the base of operations that allows me to do other positive things in my life. I have the glass studio which is slowly but surely proving to be the direction I need to pursue. Everybody seems to love what I make. I am building an inventory and look forward to the day when the studio will be a profitable venture and no longer a financial drain. I have a loving family who supports me and my endeavors.

It is a hard thing to have your life upended. The circumstances relating to the end of my marriage, as they were, led me down a road of depression, fear and self loathing, where I constantly felt that I was less than; damaged goods; and not worthy of a good happy life, a Life which I absolutely deserve. My blindness to the last statement allowed me to go further down the road of alcoholism and drug addiction than I had ever ventured. So far, that I was in dire need of medical, psychological and spiritual intervention.

Physical evidence of those insane times. Notice my hair sticking up on one side, the lopsided glasses and my pocked and scarred face ...

I feel that in small but significant ways all of that insanity is slowly creeping back into my life. For a while I was doing well financially, just as I'm sure you were. But things are tough these days. I am easily spending more than $50 a week to fill up my car with gas. With a few unexpected expenses this week, I am now, once again, playing financial Russian Roulette with a check I wrote, something I haven't done in a long, long time. I'm guessing that I will squeeze through and perhaps even avoid that $35 bounced check fee. but that lingering possibility that I won't ... I don't have to tell you, I'm sure you have been there, you know how it feels.

I have been seeing more people on bikes, more people foraging for cans and bottles, more people walking into the local supermarket to dump their milk container full of change into the mechanical coin counter. That money was to be used for spending money on a summer vacation, not gasoline to get to the the crappy job you hate. My friend at the 7-11 was telling me about an elderly shoplifter who was stealing a .69 cent can of chicken soup. He did not bust her.

Why I have once again slipped into the mode of mourning the loss of a relationship, even though it was dysfunctional at best, is beyond me. Sure, the new life shared by my ex and her new husband has a high glossy exterior. Things look Norman Rockwell perfect to the outside observer. But as I am finding out, as I struggle, old habits die hard, if at all. The day will come, in her life, where the better option will be to pursue that whim, that errant bad judgment call; one much like the decision she made which led her to the relationship she is in now with the cricket pro. I can see it in her. I can see it in her relationships with her friends. I am privy to some of her dark secrets. I know what is in the dark always comes into the light. It is not my place to bring these matters to the light, that would be the most counter productive of situations.

Enough of that. I guess I am justified in being angry. I admit that I am jealous, but at the same time I am grateful. I am grateful that my daughter has a nice home with a mother who can provide for her in such a way that I am currently, incapable. Even if that relationship seems strained and distant at times, I know she has me. I don't need a relationship to define who I am today. I have my beautiful daughter who needs me as a spiritually whole and productive member of society. It is my sole duty to make sure that I am there, no matter how clever or smooth talking the disease of addiction can be.

I did something this weekend, for which I feel guilty. I slept. I never sleep. I am usually good for five hours a night, at best. Saturday night, I got home from the wedding at about 10 PM. I went to bed and slept until Noon on Sunday. I did the same last night. I got over 8 hours. I had just worked 13 days in a row, that along with my other obligations to my family and to my brothers in the program contributed to the limited sleep. Why I feel guilty for sleeping 18 hours on my days off? More insanity I guess? I need to learn how to love and take care of my self. and getting enough sleep is the most basic variables in that equation.

Had I not allowed my self that luxury, I would not have enjoyed the lucid dreams I had. I dreamed of walking through rolling fields of hay on a bright summer day. I dreamed of meeting the cute waitress who works at the diner, which is a short walk away from where I live. I ran into her in the lot at a Grateful Dead concert. She was dressed in her finest hippie garb, she had a hair wrap, her smile was accentuated by sparkles, her blond hair was equally as long and flowing as her earth toned peasant skirt. She was wearing that tight Tinkerbell t-shirt she often sports, and her index finger was hoisted high in the air, indicating that she needed a miracle, a miracle of a free ticket. I also dreamed I was at the beach with my daughter, as we pursued the tidal pools looking for marine life.

I guess I should not feel jealous. I should not be bitter, what it happening around me is life. There is just as much good as there is bad. I just have to decide that I am not going to let it pass me by, that I am am going to be a happy, willing participant. A happy willing participant who has people in his life who love him unconditionally. A happy participant who has a warm cozy bed in which he can enjoy those dreams.

Until next time you will always find me ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hobbits, Dwarves, and Orcs ... Alt. Middle Earth Country

I got another one of those calls from Steve the other day. Bow Bow had just gotten the latest issue of No Depression and there was a review of State Fair and there seemed to be a some confusion as to what the reviewer thought of State Fair (The Review by Rick Cornell can be seen on the drunkstuntmen.com message board)

Steve was concerned that the band may be experiencing an identity crisis and Basically asked me to identify what Genre the band is. I even sent out an email to some of our friends, long time fans and associates asking them to chime in.

Alt. Country and Roots Rock still dominate the landscape. "Bamm", a frequent contributor to the message board said, "Interesting question. I don't have an answer for the "genre" because it changes with each new CD and sometimes with each new show."

The Folks at Masslive.com seemed to be as perplexed as Steve was when it came to this subject. One review read like it would have been more appropriate for Soup than the most recent incarnation of the Drunk Stuntmen. Even the folks up in Vermont, who are pushing the Middle Earth Show this weekend, are calling the Stuntmen, "the Northampton, Ma based jam band." I guess we should have never done that "Bring a Drum and get in for Free" promotion back in the day when Freddy could still cook you up a steaming pile of noodles for lunch. Well, he can still do that, but you just have to accept that the steaming pile of noodles is meant for your ears and not your belly.

It doesn't matter what genre we are. Call us what you want, just call us different. We are still of the belief that different is good.

I came across this little ditty I wrote last Summer. I think it deserves a revisit and may help to quell any questions of identity when it comes to this band....

I had the pleasure of seeing the Drunk Stuntmen two weekends in a row. All and I mean ALL of the new Drunk Stuntmen tunes are really shaping into something hard to describe. Personnel changes aside, the new tunes definitely fit the leaner and meaner unit. Trailer Life, their latest release has a very distinct and unique sound and reflected an energy that one would witness from the stage. There are songs about love lost, and a yearning for simpler times more comfortable times jarred by the act of our parents selling our house. The themes are geared toward blue collar Americans, tapping into our emotions with vivid images of Trailer Parks, California towns where the residents strive to preserve their identity and solitude by removing street signs so the tourists can't find them. Most of the songs on the Album were penned by Terry Flood, former guitarist, and front man Steve Sanderson who handled all of the vocals on Trailer Life.

I have high hopes for the new album, which will begin production in September. From what I am hearing, it sounds like the new album will further define the musical direction the Drunk Stuntmen. There was a true Southern Rock flavor to a lot of what has happened in the past. But those are the roots . Hopefully will not change. With that said, the new tunes are going to leave people scratching their heads wondering what happened. Perhaps it is the personnel change and the fact that the writers are singing their own material. Perhaps it will be the inclusion of some new Freddy Freedom tunes who was noticeably absent as a contributing writer on the last release. But these folks sitting there scratching away may be wondering what happened to their band. And they are going to want MORE. I'm talking about the folks who haven't quite gotten on board with what is actually happening from the stage and have had Trailer Life in their disc changer in the trunk of their car for the last 18 months, often choosing that disc for their afternoon commute. If you see the Stuntmen on a semi-regular basis this energy is not only apparent but consuming.

Insightful lyrics, funking groovy jams with a Booker T and the MGs flair, trumpet solos. They sound like a band which has been emancipated from the pigeon hole where everyone's favorite Skynrd covers reside. I'm not suggesting that the new songs sound drastically different as say...in the instance of Neil Young going from heavily sampled and computerized Trans era to the Rockabilly genre with the Blue Notes. That's schizophrenia or Neil's attempt at an inside joke, not necessarily the progression and growth of a vibrant and forward thinking unit who is not afraid to take chances. The songs demonstrate a maturity and a reverence for life and what is happening around all of us. We can identify. Still My Baby, Halcyon days, 6:29, Silver City, Every Third Thing are all great tunes but they may confuse the the aforementioned Stuntfans and possibly even a critic or two.

We are entering a new era. The energy provided by this band is reaching the critical limit and may no longer be safely contained. I don't know about you, but I am preparing for the explosion.

Call us what you will, but call us.

This weekend is the last chance to see the Drunk Stuntmen at the Middle Earth in Bradford, Vermont. If you can make this show please do. The Middle Earth is a special venue which is going to be closing it doors.

Check out the tour dates. We are lining up the home field advantage as we return to the Narrows in Viva Fall River. We heading up to Buffalo, NY and PA soon, Also, a Southern swing is on the books as we will hit Nashville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Charlotte. Also Bourne is coming up! Make your reservations for a camp site early.

Until Next Time ... Do Your Own Stunts!

Just for Today, I'm Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.