Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hi! Brrrrrrrr (nation)

Ah the wind and the cold of a Chicago winter. Good for hunkering down, reconnecting with old friends, rediscovering a love of Guinness, and trying to gain back all the weight you've lost living healthily over the last three months.

Also good for letting inspiration ferment inside a wine-filled belly and waiting for the perfect moment to unleash it. Aided by hours of listening to new CDs gifted by generous relatives and playing a "new" 1963 Gibson ES-125 gifted by one sneaky, wonderful woman. Mix in the coming storm, the coming work, the coming projects...

And now to plot more, to drink more, to live more, to sleep more, to feel more, to love more, and to wind those silken cocoon threads a little tighter, seal off the light for a few more weeks until we know we're ready to take flight as something new.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Clock watching

I can't believe this year is almost over. What a blur. I feel like I'm sitting in class, waiting for the bell to ring.

After a long stretch of being extremely busy, Friday will find me with a bit of a much needed break. I have 3 and a half paid days off from Baker & McKenzie in the next two weeks and two forced days off from teaching (Christmas and New Year's Eves). Additionally, the week between Christmas and New Year's will be slow for teaching.

So I'm looking at a span of 11 days where I'll work at Baker all of a day and a half and likely teach just a day. And I'm fine with that. I think 2006 is going to be a great year full of a lot of hard work so I'll need my, er, beauty sleep. We got the balance of our CDs, got our press pictures, and, I believe, got our CD release party booked for early February with a release date to follow.

So there's lots to be excited about. Lots to be... zzzzzzzzzzzz.


Friday, December 16, 2005

The Eagle Has Landed

Indeed. Bottle Boy CDs were placed on my front porch on Wednesday. There was much celebrating. It looks great. It sounds great.

Thank you for rock n' roll. Thank you.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


You know how we set the clocks forward an hour each spring? Well, I feel like I set my clock forward a week. I mean, where the heck have I been?

Last week was filled with rehearsing and playing at Schubas. Of course, the show would fall on the night Chicago gets 6 inches of snow. So attendance was a bit limited. But it was still a good show and we got to try out a bunch of new material we've been working up. This weekend, we had a family event and then we pretty much just hibernated... and shoveled snow.

Well, I shoveled snow. Everyone else in my house seems to be afraid of our shovel. Especially Hendrix. And now we're already smack in the middle of another week. I've got a bunch of lunches (with our web designer and a prospective student) and then my office holiday party on Friday. Always a good time.

Mix in a couple of rehearsals too as we start to focus on our CD release party. And speaking of our CD, it is supposed to be delivered today. That's right. Today. I really hope it shows up before I have to leave for lunch and to teach. So that's what the title of this post refers to. Not the movie in which rednecks sodomize hunters while a retarded kid plays the banjo.

Not that there's anything, er, right with that.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Thank-full redux

This week has a cluttered feel to it. So much to do, so little time. We're expecting that Bottle Boy will be delivered (heh) this week or early next, so we've begun putting together our list of press contacts for advance copies and strategizing exactly how and when we want to release it. This is one area where our manager Paul has proven quite helpful.

We posted a couple of the new tunes on MySpace at Looks like we'll then stream the whole album from our site starting in the New Year, and look to schedule our CD release party/show and official release date in February. Very exciting. We're also playing at Schubas on Thursday (8:00 pm sharp) where we'll be debuting most if not all of the new material we're planning to record for a new EP. Good times. And all this after a busy weekend.

On Saturday, after teaching 13 students, we met up with a group of friends at a homeless shelter in Andersonville and helped cook dinner for a group of homeless men. Boy, was that humbling. It's so hard for me to relate to the whole idea of homelessness... what it means, why it happens, how it happens... a good portion of the guys for whom we made dinner seemed to have serious mental health issues and I would imagine that this is the single biggest factor in being homeless.

It was a good experience and we got a chance to make a huge meal and then eat with the guys and talk to them. The homeless shelter, which is set up like a halfway house, is designed to get its residents jobs and eventually homes, and a couple of the guys were actively holding down jobs and making progress. Talk about being thankful for what I have.

After dinner, we stopped for a drink in Andersonville and then headed down to Wrigleyville to meet up with my best friend Ben, who was in town from Reno. Good times. After struggling to bed quite late, we got up early and met up with Ben and his wife April for bloody marys and the Bears' game at a bar near our house. Good times again.

Sunday night, I spent a frustrating 4 hours putting together our mailing list on our new server... retyping hundreds of email addresses... grrrrrr.... and the task spilled over to last night/this morning when I finally get our mailer out. So now... all that's left is to rehearse tonight and tomorrow and play this show on Thursday. And work and teach. Oh joy.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Madness, Meet Method. Method, Madness

I feel like a shut in. After chaining myself to the couch yesterday and leaving only to go to rehearsal, I awoke this morning to find an inch or so of snow on the ground.

Days like this make me want to pull down the shades and just write all day... and I'm currently wrestling with whether I should go to the gym and then to teach, or spend another day inside. After catching up on a little sleep yesterday morning, I managed to get some work done in the afternoon. Emails were sent, webpages were updated... so in the afternoon I was finally able to settle in to do some playing and writing.

I played from about 3:00 to 5:30 without stopping, running through some new tunes a few times, and then starting work on a simple idea I'd come across on Tuesday while I was teaching. I usually tune my students' guitars at the beginning of each lesson because a) it's quicker if I do it, and b) I want to make sure nothing is wrong with the guitar, i.e. it needs new strings or a set up. So after I tune the guitar, I usually play a couple of chords, let my hands wander a bit to make sure everything is okay.

I can't tell you how many times I've hit upon song ideas during these brief fits of playing. I think it's because while playing I'm often simultaneously talking to my student, and therefore my hands and ears are left to work unencumbered by my brain and mouth. If I hit on something that strikes my fancy (sometimes as simple as a little phrase or a cool chord change or a good rhythm) the trick is to remember it until I have a couple of minutes by myself to really solidify what I did in my head and hands.

My students are very patient with me and my quirks, which often include playing the idea a good dozen times with my eyes closed whilst singing along with it as well as jotting down some cryptic notes. I figure it gives them a bit of insight into how songs are written. By me at least. Anyway, most sparks that are worth remembering, I remember. Then begins the actual process of writing.

Some things to consider: is the spark a verse, chorus, or neither? Is it in a good key? What is the feel/rhythmic suggestion? Is it too obvious/too esoteric? A lot of the time, these questions are answered subconsciously and instantaneously. And once I have something that I like and I think it's sitting well in my hands and ears, I try to start singing something. Anything.

Usually open vowels or words with open vowels, just to see where potential melodies sit in my voice. Sometimes I get lucky and I sing some legitimate words that jump start the lyric writing process. Most of the time, I have to be a little more calculated, and start thinking about what the song sounds like it's about and how that jives with some of my recent lyrical ideas. Anyway, I'm over-analyzing the process here.

Yesterday, I began building some ideas around a simple eight note pattern I came across Tuesday. The first thing I did was lower the pattern a half step and then I changed the way the bass notes on the guitar supported and related to the pattern. Once I was happy with the basic structure and feel, I began brainstorming some lyrics.

I don't know if it was the day, or the fact that I was a bit sick, or the fact that Gina is out of town and I was missing her, but I was feeling incredibly sad as I began writing and I tried to capture some of that... a lot of the time, lyrics start with certain words or phrases that I find attractive and then I have to go back and figure out what the heck they mean in the context of the song. I've gotten to the point where I have maybe one line left to write in a particular song, and I still have no idea what it's actually about. I like this. I used to be a stickler for concrete meaning, but I've learned to write more towards the sounds of the words and the images and then bring the meaning along afterwards if need be. Sometimes.

Sometimes I try to write with a particular meaning in mind too. So yesterday, I began with this idea of driving back from the airport at 7:00 in the morning from dropping Gina off, and kind of went from there. As I wrote things down, crossed them out, revised what I had, the sun went down and soon I was sitting in the dark, straining to see my writing book and singing this new song. I managed to write most of two verses and then got stuck on one line in the second verse. A lot of times, the best thing to do is to put a song down and come back to it the next day with a new perspective. Which is what I did this morning. And it clicked.

BREAK Slipping through the empty streets at the break of day Lost an hour somewhere along the way... do you remember when The innocence was just enough to get us to the show? I guess it wasn't all that long ago And the buildings that hang along the lake Swallow up our lightening from the moment we awake... and in between The northern star and the old train cars, a lion sits and waits I wish that this fragile heart would just go on and Break break break... is it too Late late late


Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Sick today. Took Gina to the airport at 6:00 this morning. Three day trip to New York for work.

Anyway, don't think I went to sleep until about 4:00 am, and when I got back from O'Hare, I just couldn't face the idea of going to work. Luckily, things are a little slow this week, so I was able to justify calling in and going back to bed. I got another hour of sleep, and I feel a little bit better. I'm going to use this free day to get a bunch of music-related stuff in order and hopefully have a little extra time to write later before I attempt to go to rehearsal.

My sleeping patterns, which are never good, seem to get even worse when Gina goes out of town. So the next few days will probably be sleepless. Oh well.

"Now the days turn into more than you can stand And every midnight lamp you burn marks you with a brand The ashes fall in time, the nausea comes in waves But if music's mercy then we'll all be saved" 


Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Well, another Thanksgiving's come and gone and now we're staring down the barrel of a loaded Christmas. Huh? Well, you know what I mean.

Thanksgiving was good and filling. Much food and company, many laughs. Spent Thursday and Friday up in Lake Geneva with Gina's parents, and then had my family over to our house on Sunday afternoon. We also went to my sister's house warming party on Saturday night. So there were many opportunities for holiday cheer. Which I took advantage of in spades. And I feel bloated. And that's probably too much information.

So this week it's back to the usual routine: work, teach, play music. And try not to consume 5000 calories a day. We have a couple of rehearsals in anticipation of our return to the stage at Schubas next week. Good times. Looks like we'll debut 4 new songs, most likely the very 4 we'll be trying to record in the early new year. I'm getting more and more excited about going back into the studio so quickly.

The songs are shaping up and I think they'll reveal Burn Rome Burn continuing to develop and explore our sound. Hopefully, we'll be the kind of band who can change its aesthetic from album to album without losing our essence and ethic. Other than that, I'll be trying to break into my new writing journal. I have a lot of musical ideas and over the last few days, some new lyrical themes have been pestering me like gadflies.

In album news, it looks like Bottle Boy will be delivered (ha) next week, so we (Burn Rome Burn) have a ton to do to prepare for a full on press blitz... advance copies will go to newspapers, radio stations, on-line music critics... which will hopefully generate some momentum into the new year and our CD release party.

So I guess the word of the week is hopeful. Which should be the word of just about every week.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005


for reading. for commenting. for looking. for listening. for caring. for loving. for health. for food. for sleep (or lack thereof). for warmth. for a home. for transport. for safety. for presents. for family. for friends. for pets. for rock and roll. for enough. for Chicago. for inspiration. for dreams. for leading. for failures. for pain. for love. for loss. for the past. for the future. for beauty. for that one. for coffee. for Burn Rome Burn. for learning. for life. for time. for my sea. for giving. for taking. for thought. for oral hygiene. for good genetics. for hair. for ghosts. for angels. for doubt. for mistakes. for obstinance. for procrastination. for persistence. for determination. for thick skin. for belief. for trust. for faith. for getting older. for wine. for song. for more songs. for six strings. for truth. for the holidays. for making it this far.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Out with the old

Anybody else just floored that it's already Thanksgiving? Sometimes, I just don't know. Of course, with the holidays comes the attending logistics of doing two Thanksgivings and two Christmases... but after two years of coordination, we're getting pretty good at it. Plus, there's nothing wrong with having two Thanksgiving dinners.

This year, we're going up to Lake Geneva for Thanksgiving day and then having my parents over to our place on Sunday for another Thanksgiving. In between, I'll be (gulp) trying my hand at hunting pheasants up in Wisconsin. Something tells me, the birds have nothing to fear from a guy who's gone to a shooting range exactly once. I'm sure there's some old nugget of wisdom about spending time with one's father-in-law and guns...

I did manage to push through the final page of my writing book. And it yielded the final verse to the song

Someday We'll Watch the Highway Burn. Saw the light on the city behind Saw the firefight in your eyes Just another day coming on Just another restless dawn Someday We'll watch the highway Burn Thought that maybe I would stay As the morning slipped away Thought that maybe I would break The midnight spells you couldn't shake Someday We'll watch the highway Burn As you would say, this is the end Of what the heartbreak couldn't mend And then And then and then you will be free To light the fires of your dreams Someday We'll watch the highway Burn


Feels like a good way to end a writing book that's been as productive as any I've had. I went looking for my first writing book from high school, but I think it's packed away in the basement. I did find a book from 1997... boy is that interesting. The strangest thing about looking back at old writing books is that there are things I don't remember writing. I usually go through a book every six months depending on how big it is, so I can generally remember writing almost everything in my current book.

Not so much with the older books, which feel like they were written by somebody else. The other strange thing, is that from all these books, we play exactly nothing I wrote from before 2001. And very little written before 2003. So there are about 8 years of books with nothing but... well... crap. I'm not being hard on myself. Actually, I am.

My point is just that it took me almost 8 years of writing to get to the point where I was consistently writing songs that held my (and the band's) attention. But that's how I've developed whatever work ethic I have today. Most of the Bottle Boy album was written in one book. And this book I just finished produced a good dozen tunes, most of which will become Burn Rome Burn tunes.

So... I guess that really puts it in perspective. Or as David St. Hubbins said "Too much fucking perspective."


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rawk, Role

Right. Well, another BRB song is ready for the masses. Last night, we braved the cold of our rehearsal studio to put together a new tune called Regret.

As we said after putting together Atlantis, Regret sounds different than anything we've done before. Which I think is a good trend. It's a country/folkish thing in 3 (waltz feel). Very spare and atmospheric. Doc and I stayed after Barret and Aoife left to work through some cool harmonies, which will add quite a bit if we can pull them off together.

To wit:

REGRET Left something beneath the moon that night As the desert sky swallowed our hearts Had the pitch, the count and all the signs But I just couldn't knock it out of the park Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me We all believe that time stands still Even if we act like it don't I've got a silver bullet and a bulletproof voice And I'll never leave you alone Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me And I wish I was there before The ghost signed its name upon your door Maybe the part of this that you never knew Would have been too much Would have been too true Now it's done, time to move on Let the chips fall where they might The years and miles could never keep us apart And I'm not going down without a fight Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me


Actually, in looking back at my writing book (more on that later), I see that this tune was actually written in April and May of this year. I also started scouting out studios for our planned early 2006 recording project. My first instinct was Electrical Audio, of Steve Albini (Nirvana, Magnolia Electric Co., tons more) fame. I think we'd be able to manage blocking out a Friday-Sunday there. If it worked, we'd try to spend Friday setting up and getting sounds, Saturday getting basic tracks all live (drums, bass, guitar) and maybe Sunday getting violins and vocals done.

Electrical Audio has a beautiful space and the capacity to capture the live type of sound we're going to shoot for on this project. Depending on how these songs take shape, we'd aim for getting 3 full band tunes, and maybe one acoustic tune... although the new stuff is taking on such a great, simple, straight ahead feeling, that we might be able to squeeze out another if my vocals could take it.

That's exciting. Good times.

Coming next week: I publish actual excerpts from my first songwriting journal, circa 1995. I've got one page left in my current writing book (an anniversary present from last year), and I'm ready to move on to my next book, a beautiful leather bound journal Gina brought me from Italy. After that one, I've got a stylish book Barret and Aoife got me on their honeymoon. I take these writing books very seriously, and I'm very superstitious about them. I believe that each book has a unique character and my writing in each has a unique character...

I've thrown away writing books that I feel have bad feelings or karma attached. So as I finish one writing book, I like to look back at some of my previous books, just to get perspective on where my writing has been, and where it's going. I have every one of them dating back to high school...

So check back next week for vintage, scintillating, SCINTILLATING high school-era lyrics from yours truly. And get ready to clench those gluts.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A fence is a fence is a fence

As a matter of principle, I don't sleep much. More hours awake = more hours of productivity. But sometimes, my body rebels against this strategy and just, well, shuts down without asking permission. 

Which is what happened last night/this morning, apparently. Because I remember trying to keep my eyes open for the end of the football game last night and then suddenly it was morning and two hours after I usually wake up and start writing. I guess I needed it.

The weekend was a little disjointed because Gina was sick with the flu and I spent a good amount of time making sure she was taken care of... although I did pick my spots. On Friday, after a happy hour at work downtown (or as we call it, "ecstatic hour"), I met up with my friend AJ and we went on a wine tasting/buying mission, finally settling into his South Loop condo to test out our finds and listen to Guided by Voices.

Saturday was spent teaching and caretaking. Sunday, I met up with Jake and Josh, some old dog park friends I hadn't seen in a long time, at a local pub for some bloody marys and football. We drank, ate, and cheered a fifth straight Bears' victory. Sunday was also marked by persistent winds of over 30 mph, which managed to blow down a portion of our back fence. I noticed this upon returning from my football-related socializing, and spent an hour or so stumbling around with a large section of wooden fence and cursing as the intermittent gusts mocked my efforts at nailing the offending portion back to its corresponding posts.

But I did finally defeat the inanimate object and to celebrate, I went out and bought a hammer drill. And some groceries. Anyway, after wading through a dreary Monday, the week is now unfolding before me like a pile of laundry. What? That doesn't even make sense.

We've got rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday this week, which I think we're all looking forward to quite a bit. A good chance to get more new material together and start to focus in on our future recording project.

As far as Bottle Boy... I think it may be time for a C-section. Actually, the artwork is finally (I think) done, so we really should be only weeks away from delivery. So to speak.

Wow. I think I'm going to go back to bed now.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Back in the Saddle

From now on, all the titles of my entries here will be Aerosmith songs.

I can't wait for Dude Looks Like a Lady.

Actually, what's back in the saddle is the juggernaut known as Burn Rome Burn. After a quiet month or so, we've begun making noise again, as witnessed by rehearsals last night and the night before. After brushing away some cobwebs, we worked on some of the boatload of new material that's been pieced together over the last few months.

We finally finished arranging the song Bright Dark Times, a song we started working on months ago. In the end, the arrangement hinged on one of Aoife's violin lines buttressed (hunh hunh, I said "butt") by a rhythmic variation by Doc. The whole process was a nice little example of how far we've come in terms of arranging and writing as a group. We've been trying to come up with a way to end BDT for awhile and were collectively stuck in the idea that we should find a way to come back to the beginning, to end with a variation based on the start of the song.

This resulted in a lot of ideas, but nothing that struck any of us as being all that interesting. In fact, most of it was pretty bad. Think jazz-hands-bad. So when Barret left our rehearsal studio to take a call, Aoife, Doc and I kept working. Doc came up with the idea of changing our focus from the beginning of the song to the chorus. He and I tried some variations of the chorus and he finally hit upon the simple idea of playing the chords from the chorus, but for half as long, known in musical parlance as "double time."

On top of this, Aoife transplanted her violin line from the bridge, and suddenly we had exactly what we were looking for: an ending which was new but also connected to the rest of the song, in fact, connected to both the chorus and the bridge. Barret came back in, and we spent a few minutes trying further variations before we locked into a nice concise 10 bar "outro." Good times.

Even better, we then went on and banged out (I said "bang") the maiden (... nevermind) version of Atlantis. Atlantis turned out to be yet another measure of where we are as a band. I wrote this song with the idea of staying as simple and direct as possible. It's really a three chord song with a modulation. No bridge, just 3 verses and choruses. I started playing the verse groove, and Barret and Doc immediately locked into what can only be described as a deep pocket. Just thunderous. By the time we ran the tune for the third time, we could have played it live. Everybody just dialed it in. We all realized right off the bat that the simpler we played the song, the better it would sound.

Almost like a Tom Petty or Cracker tune. If our next project is going to be about recording songs in a quick, live fashion... Atlantis is the perfect candidate. Because of scheduling, we can't practice this weekend, which is a bit of a bummer. As we walked out, everyone seemed re-energized, especially with the prospect of working on more new tunes.

You could even say we were all... "Pump" ed. Get it?


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sartre? You brought her

Is it totally sophomore-in-college-philosophy-class to talk about existential angst? Does it reveal me to be the child of the Nirvana era that I am? What did Liz Phair say about Kurt Cobain? That he made it okay for men to cry? Does anybody still care what Liz Phair says or sings? What's the world record for consecutive rhetorical questions in a blog?

Somebody research that and get back to me.

Don't know what it is, but I'm having a little trouble getting any sort of traction this week. The weekend was good if not a bit muddled. My grandparents' anniversary party on Saturday was fun and, most importantly, they seemed pleased with the whole event. My sister, her boyfriend and I extended the party at my place and then went out for some food. Not being able to leave well enough alone, I met my friend Greg at a bar and we proceeded to close it down at about 2:30 am.

On Sunday morning, I convalesced until the Bears cured my, er, illness. So maybe my body is still dealing with the 13 hours of partying it endured on Saturday. Or maybe it's just one of those weeks... 

On the bright side, Burn Rome Burn practices tonight and tomorrow for the first time in a month, with a lot to be excited about and a lot to work on. So that's something to look forward to. Additionally, it looks like we'll be returning to the stage in December at Schuba's, a club I've wanted to play, but never have. That show should be the beginning of some serious work for us, as our official "hard" release date of Bottle Boy will probably be the middle of December and we'll be busting our asses to promote and put together a CD release party early in the new year.

After writing that, I feel a little better. Or maybe it's the 64 ounces of coffee I just consumed.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Camera Obscura

The light collides with the night Dust settles in the street I am my father's only son I turn the pages as he reads It seems the truth is trapped inside a song That plays within your eyes The buildings fall upon a wall that holds The secrets of the sky I am for you and you alone We tried so hard to bury the bones It took so long for us to see That love is really all we need We had it once before But it all fell apart First one, then two, then four And the beating of a heart Could have been the start of something more And now I believe While I'm writing songs I can listen to you breath I am for you and you alone We've tried so hard to bury the bones It took so long for us to see That love is really all you need


Growing Up

Thanks to a recently purchased box of Target brand sleeping pills, I've actually been getting some rest this week. Thanks to some recently purchased charcoal water filters for our badass Cuisinart coffee maker, my coffee has been crisp and pure this week. Thanks to the fact that it's Thursday and I'm not teaching this Saturday, the work week is almost over.

Indeed, this Saturday I'll be attending a party in celebration of my maternal grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! That, my friends, is amazing. Pair this staggering matrimonial accomplishment with my parents' marriage of 36 years and counting, and I've got some pretty successful models for how this whole "being married forever" thing works. And you can add in my in-laws having been married for over three decades too.

If marriage longevity is passed on genetically, I'd say Gina and I are in pretty good shape. As fun as birthday and anniversary parties are, it's hard to watch your family get older. For me, these things are always accompanied by the guilty feeling that I don't fully appeciate the fact that at 28, I still have three living grandparents. The fourth, my paternal grandfather, passed on many years before I was born. So I've never really experienced losing a blood relative (knock on wood). And inevitably it leads me to think about my parents growing older. And then me growing older. And it's a bit of a slippery slope into thoughts of mortality and the like...

But why should I go down such roads when it's a beautiful fall day, I've got a good cup of coffee in my hand, and I've got a new tune kicking around my head? Indeed.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What's a hour among friends?

Ah the extra hour of sleep that accompanies the end of daylight savings time... how sweet it was. Of course, as I arrived home in near darkness at not much past 5:00 last night, I thought a bit differently. Time to get ready for hibernation.

We had a fairly busy but somehow relaxing weekend. Friday was reserved for sleeping. Saturday morning we got up early to go out to Oak Park to deal with the logistics of taking out a loan to pay for cooking school for Gina. More on this in a later entry, but let's just say that it's frighteningly easy to borrow large sums of money when you 1) own a house and b) have a decent amount of equity in it. 

After teaching all day Saturday, I came home and soon thereafter we set out on the October installment of our ongoing "surprise dates" series. Gina and I take turns each month planning a surprise date for one another. Past dates have included concerts, dinners, cooking class, and even weekend getaways. This month, I went for something a little more laid back and we ate dinner at Charlie's on Leavitt (near our house) and then walked across the street to the new wine bar Cork.

A good time (and good wine) was had by all, and we especially had fun costume watching. After drinking in our glorious extra hour of sleep, we headed up to Rogers Park to attend my Bubbie's (yiddish for grandma) 90th birthday party. The full complement of relatives were there and the highlight was easily the birthday cake with (I kid you not) 90 candles that the diminutive Bubbie succeeded in blowing out. 90 years... and she's doing pretty darn well, aided by her children (my father, two uncles, and one saintly aunt who lives in the same building on the second floor) who have really put into place and executed a plan to break up the work of caring for her and allowed her to continue to live "on her own" for longer than most could manage.

After the party, we sped home to catch the dramatic end of the Bears' game and then took care of our usual Sunday shopping augmented by a trip to Target. Is it me, or is there some sort of $75 minimum at Target? Regardless of how little we set out to buy, we always seem to spend at least $75, but that may have more to do with my wife's "gift" for finding things we "need."

Speaking of things I need, I am so behind on buying CDs, it's ridiculous. Just shameful. I've been meaning to pick up, among others, the new Chocolate Genius, one of the new Ryan Adams' discs, the last Rufus Wainwright (which came out last year I think), the Suffjan Stevens Illinois album... and I've already got my eye on the forthcoming live Wilco record as well.

Looks like I've already got my Christmas list made up.


Friday, October 28, 2005

This week's ghost

In addition to obsessing over Time and the Sea (which is a working title for a future album), I also find myself leaning on the ghost... and what the ghost means and how it represents the relationship between the past and the future and the passage of time. Not a particularly groundbreaking lyrical convention, but a useful and effective one.

What raised the specter of the ghost this week, was that I'm starting to sort through the lyrics to all the new tunes and look for possible themes for the new recording project... most of the songs have been written over the last 6 months, with over half in the last 3 months, and that writing window lends itself to subliminal (or sometimes superliminal) overarching ideas and imagery.

One of the things I liked about naming the album Bottle Boy is that when I looked at all the lyrics, it seemed like an album about the past, about memories, and about, well, ghosts... things that continue to haunt you which you think are temporary but come to realize, after months or years, that they might just be a part of you forever.

So you have:

Nothing's Changed - that very idea of thinking you've escaped something from your past only to have it there again 

Revenant - almost exactly the same theme as Nothing's Changed... "coming back again..."

The Darkness - about those people (well, person) who help(s) you deal with time and ghosts

Four Words - sometimes, the ghosts get a little too loud and you give up

Bombs Away - walking that line between the past and future... trying to move forward

Fallout Grace - the wildcard... progress and the unknown... from all these ghosts come songs

Mermaid - as mentioned in previous entries, this song is the "ghost" of the album... seemed like it would haunt me until we put it out there.

The Soft Drown - overwhelmed by the ghosts

Seraphim do Mar - what's left when it's all gone?

And Bottle Boy... this song was on our first EP (a ghost of a song), and it's remained a bit of a mystery to me. It's about being between the past and the future, between the ghosts of the past and the ghosts of the future (I feel like I'm stuck in a Dickens' story now)... and that feeling of knowing that there will always be those ghosts there... so it seemed an appropriate title for the album.

When I wrote these lyrics, which I did in a cafe up in Madison, Wisconsin, on a napkin in 2003 (still have the napkin), I wasn't sure what they meant, specifically the choruses and the title. I'd had the phrase Bottle Boy kicking around for a bit, and really loved the imagery and what it evoked, but had no context in which to put it. And these fairly straightforward verse lyrics came pouring out of me in a cafe where I spent many a night during my four important years in Madison, and I was remembering all the ghosts, good and bad, and thinking about what they meant to me and how they made and continued to make me who I was on that day... and Bottle Boy was born.

Aimless AM radio, spinning through the dial I'm falling into silence, I've gone another mile When that feeling of suspense meets the skyline heading north Going down that road you've gone down many times before Like a moth into the light, I neglect the consequence Or perhaps it was the lure of electric eloquence One thing is for certain, the burn is something real The scar is just a shadow of the innocence I feel I'm in between the signal I'm in between the static I'm lightening in a bottle I'm thinking something tragic And on past the journey to the place where we were born On that quiet winter's night when the clocks had struck forlorn There's something stark and fleeting in walking down these streets There's something to the myth that quickens my heart as it beats I'm in between the signal I'm in between the static I'm lightening in a bottle I'm thinking something tragic I'm in between the moonlight The currency of strangers The noise is in the moonlight And the moonlight is the danger to me And back into the night, the sky is pushing me Back on down that road to the places I should be How can I forget the way you won weary eyes? Well I will not go dreaming as the days just pass me by ******* 

So now I can see that everybody's lives are made up of these choruses of ghosts... and maybe I'm just trying to get mine to sing in tune.

Cheers. Go Bears.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Melon Collie

You've heard the one about the cantaloupe and the dog getting it on? No? Maybe that's better for all of us.

Another semi-cloudy October morning at home with the animals, trying to get some things done around the house, failing spectacularly. If you're going to fail, fail spectacularly. I think that's a motto all musicians should live by. Maybe I can make a t-shirt with that on it, or a Demotivational Calendar or something.

This week is setting up to be work work work. A dozen students on Tuesday, a private student last night, eight students plus a private student today, and (as of now) fifteen students on Saturday.


That's a lot. Mix in the usual Monday, Wednesday, Friday downtown and it makes for some pretty serious exhaustion and a bit of a lull in songwriting. My goal is to have 12 tunes ready by the time we rehearse again, which'll be the week after next. I've got 7 completely done, and 2 more mostly done. I've also got about 3 tunes that have solid beginnings (i.e., nice guitar hooks, changes, etc.) so hopefully I can buckle down over the next 2 weeks and have a good batch of songs ready as we begin to think about our next project.

Harriet Miers, we hardly knew ye.



Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's the plan, band?

It's a Nick Drake type of October Tuesday morning... as somehow my copy of Pink Moon has gone AWOL. Guess I'll have to score the day myself, with Mr. Drake as my muse.

Anyway, this past weekend was a good one, all around. Friday, we met up with a group of friends at Da Sero, a Mexican place on West Randolph, for some dinner, and proceeded to a wine bar for some drinks afterwards. The occasions celebrated were a visit from our friends Leslie and Matt (from Florida), and Matt's 30th birthday.

After a long day of teaching on Saturday, I took the Metra down to Grand Ave., and we met my parents, sister, and sister's boyfriend Will for dinner. The occasion celebrated was my sister receiving a no-strings-attached grant for a year's worth of college tuition and books. Good times indeed.

Sunday found me running a couple of errands and then settling in to watch the Bears defeat the Ravens. I also stopped by Aoife and Barret's to say hello and go over a couple of band-related things. The happy couple had just returned the night before from their honeymoon in England and France, and seemed happy with the trip as well as with finally being home.

We discussed (and I think decided) to adopt a slightly modified plan for Burn Rome Burn over the next six months. As I've mentioned a few times over the last few weeks, we've been having some professional disagreements with our manager about how to release Bottle Boy. We want to release it all, as is, as a full length album, whereas our manager wants us to break it into two separate EPs (shorter releases). He'd also like to see us spend a little more time tweaking it artistically, but that's not going to happen.

Anyway, he has his reasons for promoting the "two EP" strategy, and the best one is that he's going to be shopping our music to record labels, and if a label is interested, he wants to have more material to give them. Which is a sentiment I've heard a lot in the business: you always want something more in your pocket to show people.

So I was thinking (read: brooding) about this over the past week, and I hit upon this idea: by the time the album is in our hands, we have a "hard release date," put on a big CD release show, get CDs to record people, and have the record people actually listen to the CDs, it'll be 4 to 6 months from now. In that time, we're going to get back to working on new material, pick 2-4 tunes from the huge batch I've written, and spend a weekend in a really nice studio in Chicago laying down these 2-4 tunes, working quickly, trying to implement a lot of what we learned over the course of recording Bottle Boy.

So when all the record companies come to us begging for more material (wink), we'll have another EP for them to swoon over. Is it a risk? Sure. We've never written or recorded anything that quickly. But I figure the worst that happens is that we have a high-quality demo of new material. I'm hoping to lay down a couple of acoustic tunes, too, and maybe include one of them on the EP.

One of the big problems I've experienced in previous bands I've been in and seen in a lot of "local" bands, is that it's really hard to get going again after you finish a full length. You've put all your time, energy and money into this project and suddenly it's done and... it's hard to get back into the studio again. So this strategy should remedy that situation, challenge us to write and record in a new paradigm, and satisfy our manager's concerns.

Now there's just the little matter of actually making it happen...


Thursday, October 20, 2005

It Will Always Rain

The sky was low and the Streets went on for miles and the Spires hung above the tracks but they Couldn't reconcile The noise from above with the Noise from the ground and the Choir began to sing as the Summer sun went down It will always rain It will always rain If you pray for long enough It will always rain He faced to the east with his Eyes fixed on a star and he Tried to put in words what he Knew in his heart The lightening touched his tongue and the Sparks began to fly and the Night sky opened up and the Angels began to cry It will always rain It will always rain If you pray for long enough It will always rain jbg

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Awoke at 4 a.m.

I hate it when I live out my own lyrics.

I did, indeed, awaken at 4:00 a.m. this morning (after crashing at about 1:00), although I did not try to find the answer as the world began to end. As far as I can tell, at least. I instead worked on a new song tentatively entitled "It Will Always Rain" and then fell back asleep at about 5:30, just in time for our 6:30 alarm.

My hour plus writing foray yielded little worth reporting... the new song has only a chorus, and an unfinished one at that, but the music is pretty much there and the melodies have been flowing pretty freely. It's a simple, rootsy two chord thing and once I dial in exactly what I'm trying to say, I'd like to write the lyrics as quickly and honestly as possible.

Yesterday I also managed to finish December Static and I think once the band gets its fingers into it, it'll be something pretty good. It turned into a two part song with the first part as a quiet, folk tune with lyrics, and the second part as a dynamic electric long-form instrumental build, something we haven't really done. I also tinkered with another new tune called "Someday We'll Watch the Highway Burn." It's a real rocker that should go over well live.

SOMEDAY WE'LL WATCH THE HIGHWAY BURN Saw the light on the city behind Saw the firefight in your eyes Just another day coming on Just another restless dawn Someday We'll watch the Highway Burn Thought that maybe I would stay As the morning fell away Thought that maybe I would break The midnight spells you couldn't shake Someday We'll watch the Highway Burn

So we're still a good three weeks from the next BRB rehearsal, and by that time the new song list should be at least: Travesty in Blue December Static Ark Atlantis Why You Had to Fall Losing Kind Regret It Will Always Rain Someday We'll Watch the Highway Burn

Whew. We've got a lot of work to do.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Charlie Rose v. The White Stripes

I dozed off last night flipping between the Monday Night Football game and David Letterman, and woke up 30 minutes later to Charlie Rose interviewing Jack and Meg White from The White Stripes. I was forced, forced I tell you, to watch the rest of the interview and then lie awake for another hour or two thinking about it.

A couple of impressions:

1. Charlie Rose. He just plain knows his shit better than anybody else in the business. He can go from interviewing Mohamed ElBaradei to Sean Penn to The White Stripes and seem equally prepared and comfortable. Is he going to ask the "tough" questions? Not usually. But he always seems to put his guests at ease and get thoughtful in-depth pertinent answers out of them. Now he just needs to get some sleep.

2. Jack White. This guy is the real deal. I knew he was one of the best guitarists around, but he proved to be articulate, down-to-earth, intellectual, and able to crystallize his aesthetic in multi-syllabic words. Also, he had great insight into writing, performing, producing, and recording, as well as a lot of interesting thoughts on the blues, which I put into the "Ideas for Joe's Future Book About the Continuing Influence of Blues on Rock and American Culture" (working title) file in my mental file cabinet. Really. I have one. Anyway, Jack White is looking more and more like Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka everyday. He even carries a cane.

3. Meg White. I've always been a bit bored with her, but she too (the few times Jack let her talk) was articulate and extremely sweet. Like Jack, she seemed honestly amazed at and thankful for their commercial success. And she talked about the choices involved in her spare drumming style. Which gave me a better appreciation of her. I always knew The White Stripes were a freaky blues band, and Jack talked about how a lot of their thing is tricking people into listening to the blues without realizing it. And it's pretty clear that he thinks of himself as Robert Johnson, with Meg White playing the role of Robert Johnson's foot. He also talked about the experience of producing the Loretta Lynn album Van Lear Rose, which is a favorite in the Goodkin household.

All in all, worthwhile viewing. And the interview concluded with an acoustic performance, which was really... visceral. Jack White's voice is a challenge, but he attacks his songs so directly and with such genuine abandon that it usually makes for a pretty compelling listen. I think he's in the tradition of Dylan in this respect.

Now that I think about it, I don't actually own any White Stripes' albums.

Better get on that.


Monday, October 17, 2005

A week in review

So last week I tried a new approach to socializing... instead of taking it easy on the weeknights and going out on the weekend, I went out Monday through Thursday nights, stayed in Friday and Saturday nights, and threw a little party on Sunday afternoon. Just to, you know, mix things up.

Monday, my good friend Pete was in town from NYC and we drank some wine to celebrate the publication of his first cookbook.

Tuesday, I joined my good friend Colin at the Andersonville staple Hopleaf to celebrate his move to NYC where he'll begin his career as a superstar lawyer. We stayed at Hopleaf too late, and he, his friend Chris, and I got into the stupidest argument ever about Barack Obama, stereotypical Democrats that we are.

Wednesday, I stayed in the Loop a little bit late and met up with our manager Paul to discuss the album and try to put a few of the last remaining issues to bed. I don't know if we succeeded, but it was a good meeting nonetheless.

Thursday, I met up with Barret's brother Collin at the Cork Lounge to, er, transact some kilt-related business and have a few cocktails to celebrate our kilt-related accomplishment. Such as it was.

So Friday left me feeling a little... dehydrated. After working Saturday, and taking it easy again Saturday night, AJ and Sarah (and Doc briefly) joined us to watch the Bears and drink bloody marys. A carrot cake with Bears- inspired frosting baked by a future famous pastry chef was consumed, as were snacks.

Comcast cable was cursed for relegating us to standing around in the bedroom watching the game on a tiny TV screen with rabbit-ear reception, and doubly cursed for their worthless customer "service" "hot"line. e.g.

Joe: Hi, our cable's out. What's the story?
Comcast Representative (no doubt drooling on phone): Is your internet out too?
J: I don't know. I'm calling about the cable.
CR: Yes. I can see your cable's out. We have confirmation of that. Yes. There's an outage.
J: Okay... can you tell me when it might be back on?
CR: Yes. There's an outage.
J: I get that. I'm looking at a black screen with the words "One moment please. This channel will be available shortly" only "one moment" should read "one hour" and "shortly" should read "after that game is over" at the rate we're going.
CR: That's because there's an outage.
J (growing red in the face, banging phone on head): ...

Service was returned early in the second half, which reflected the Bears' performance: their first half play was barely worthy of 12" antenna-based resolution, while the second half translated nicely to crisp 27" digital goodness. There was much celebration.

So now we're back to Monday... this week I think I will avoid last week's social calendar in favor of rest and meditation, specifically paying attention to the growing amount of song-related material that seems to be gathering in my head and piling up on the pages of my notebook regardless of the hours I keep.

So many songs, so little time.


Monday, October 10, 2005

The future, Conan?

I should really be asleep right now. The last 96 hours or so have been pretty bad for rest, as they featured Barret and Aoife's wedding festivities.

I could probably write at least 5000 words on the event, but in the interest of time, let me just say this: Saturday night/Sunday morning, 2:00 am found me running laps around the 6th floor of the Lexington Hyatt wearing nothing but a kilt. That's all you need to know.

So today at work, I was a bit unfocused. I hate Mondays after big events. I'm always worthless. I'm always tired. I'd always much rather be writing. And again on the train ride home, I was struck by this continuing productivity. Just 30 minutes of writing yielded the final lyrics/approach for December Static, some nice new lyrics for another new tune, as well as two new titles/ideas for song themes.

Life is supposed to slow down a bit for the next month or so... Barret and Aoife will be on their honeymoon and then Jeff and Barret will be out of town, so BRB will be on hiatus for about a month.

The album should be in hand in a few weeks, once we 1) sort out one last issue with our manager and 2) tweak the cover art. So this little break will be good for writing, for getting our ducks in a row in terms of shopping the album, and for redesigning our website. The writing time is what I'm excited about. So many ideas, so many songs already done.

Is it way to soon to think about the next Burn Rome Burn album? Absolutely. But I don't think that'll stop me.


Thursday, October 06, 2005


Well... it's just your average Thursday. But it's been a strange week. Because of the Jewish New Year, I had no students to teach in Deerfield on Tuesday. It worked out all right though, because I was actually needed downtown at the law firm to work on an urgent big project. So this week I went into the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the first time I've worked in an office for three straight days in... years.

Can't remember how long.

Additionally, on Monday I worked almost 12 hours on said urgent project, staying downtown until about 8:00 pm. Luckily, I have Friday off to go Lexington for Barret and Aoife's wedding. But the whole Monday-Wednesday thing made me appreciate my usual schedule of every other day in the office. Some people might not like the idea of one day downtown, one day teaching, etc., but I think I thrive on it. I think it keeps me on my toes and gives me some variation, so every day I'm using different parts of my brain and different skills. 

You can tell I was a Psych major for a semester, no?

Anyway, this whole upcoming weekend will be filled with Barret and Aoife's wedding. I'm really looking forward to it. Not only am I honored to be an usher, but I'm wearing a kilt. A kilt! Barret's wearing a kilt, and he asked the ushers if we would like to wear one too and I figured... how often does one get to wear a kilt? So I'll get my "If Jesus were Scottish" look on. And I won't be wearing underwear.

To boot, my whole family will be attending and the wedding, planned to the smallest detail by Aoife's mother, is going to be incredible. A fun weekend.

Speaking of fun weekends... last weekend, my wonderful wife surprised me with a belated anniversary trip up to Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a friend's cottage, located right on Sturgeon Bay. We had beautiful weather and nothing to do and it was fantastic. Friday night, we didn't leave Chicago until about 6:00 pm, so it was 10:00 pm when we arrived at our lodging. We couldn't see much of Sturgeon Bay (the town) in the dark, other than the gigantic ghostly ships which sit in the port, waiting to be repaired.

The cottage was perfect, and we high-tailed it down the road in search of food and some drink. We found both at a little roadside bar not even a mile away, and also found a jukebox with a lot of Earth Wind and Fire and a strangely intoxicated and horny clergyman. After sleeping in on Saturday, we drove up the coast about 40 minutes to have breakfast at a place called the White Gull Inn in (I think) a little town of 1500 called Egg Harbor. Or Fish Creek. Or Fish Harbor. Or something.

We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table, so we wandered the downtown area, finally settling in a bar for a bloody mary and a few minutes of the Wisconsin game. Breakfast was delicious, and we began to work our way back towards our cottage. Gina planned a couple of stops at wineries so we could live out our Sideways fantasy, and we also stopped in some of the small towns along the way. 

After buying an antique mirror for our living room, we finally made it back to the cottage. We sat on the lake, watching the sun set and drinking a bottle of wine we'd just purchased. It was one of those moments that strikes you as completely unrealistic, like you can't believe reality actually looks and feels like it does. It was amazing.

As my sister would say, nature has no sense of irony. After that, we headed into Sturgeon Bay for a great dinner at a place called Sage. More wine, more laughs. In the morning, we ate breakfast in town, and headed back to Chicago, this time staying off major highways in favor of the smaller county roads that hug the coast. It took us a little longer to get home, but it was a much more pleasant, interesting drive.

And we had ice cream. Mmmmm... ice cream.

The whole moment watching the sun set, drinking wine, listening to the lake... will no doubt rear it's head in song at some point. It was just one of those moments that deserves to be chronicled and... relived.

Let's hope I can do it justice.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sea Change

It figures that during a week that's seen a bunch of argu-, er, disagreeing, with our manager about some of the final album details and on a day in said week when I've been at it since 7:00 am without a break doing a number of exhausting things... I can't sleep and I find it almost midnight with no shuteye in sight and the alarm clock set for 6:30 am.

Of course.

Yet I feel like I'm on the verge of something... the album, regardless of these final skirmishes, does sound great and will go out into the world and connect with a wider audience.

This morning I performed the Odyssey out in Hinsdale at 9:00 am... then again at 1:00 pm, and a third time at 2:00 pm. I haven't really put down enough here about the Odyssey, but it is tiring to perform it just once so... three times in a day is draining.

From there, I hopped in the car and wove through the nearly rush hour traffic on the Tri-State up to Deerfield where I taught from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm without a break, ten straight students. Whew... 

When I say "on the verge"... I have no idea what I mean. I just know that I think I'm hitting a pivotal time. A bunch of things, from the album to the Odyssey to my songwriting are reaching a point where they could go either way.

Either the album does well and we continue developing as band or it doesn't and we lose momentum.

Either I get serious about the Odyssey and turn it into the legitimate business it could be, or it fades into a hobby.

And in all this, I've found that I'm literally oozing music. It's not as gross as it sounds. It's just that every time I've picked up the guitar over the last month or so, I've found myself writing something I like. It's productivity and quality that I've never seen, ever, in the 5 years I've been really serious about writing music, and I haven't even had much time to write recently... it's just been almost effortless.

I've got 6 tunes done and a good 6 others in the works. For those of you scoring at home, that's almost another album worth of material, and Bottle Boy isn't even out yet. Similarly, I hit the end of my third Odyssey performance today and, even though my voice was frayed from and hour and a half of singing, the last couple songs just flowed out of me... I could here it in my voice, how easy it was for me, how confident I sounded.

Which is strange because singing is still, in some ways, very hard for me. I've gotten to the point where I know I have a good voice, but I'm still figuring out how to use it, how to have good performances. 

Today... it was happening. The voice, the guitar, the whole thing. And it just felt effortless. I guess that's the theme here: working hard, feeling like it's effortless. That's what people who perform at the highest level in any discipline do. Maybe I'm starting to get closer to that from an artistic standpoint... maybe that's what this is headed towards.

Case and point: last Thursday, one of my students didn't show up. So I had a spare half an hour to practice and write. Almost immediately I stumbled into this delicate guitar pattern that just hit me as being... worth some attention. I started kind of humming some words and I realized the words were actually good.

Soon I has two verses and part of a third. On Monday on the train, I spent 15 minutes tweaking the lyrics and now I've got almost three verse of what I think is one of the most poignant tunes I've ever written...

It just... says exactly what I want it to say. I was thinking I would add a chorus, but after playing it today, I think I may keep these verses back to back and develop the song in a somewhat unorthodox way from there. The third verse, specifically the third and fourth lines, isn't quite there yet, but the rest is golden.

Maybe if I can finish it tonight, I can sleep.

DECEMBER STATIC December static streaked the sky The streetlights blinked as we walked by I didn't mean to let you down The darkness came without a sound You took the train, it made you cry I let the how destroy the why I didn't mean to leave you there To taste the salt hanging in the air The winter left us black and blue And the drugs don't work like they used to We try to make the embers flare If electrons stir, you had better beware


Monday, September 26, 2005

Bottle Boy

In looking back at the last few weeks, I can see my entries here have been consistently substance free. That is not, however, because my life has been substance free.

Wait. That sounded like I've been doing drugs over the last few weeks. Which I haven't. Really. 

Anyway, it's a pretty steadfast rule that the substance components of my life and blog are inversely proportional. Can somebody graph that for me? I seem to have lost my TI-85 graphing calculator.

What I'm trying to say, unsuccessfully it would seem, is that I've been really busy the last few weeks. It's been a mixed bag which has included: attending a wedding, doing a bunch of work on our rental unit, performing the Odyssey at a high school in Hinsdale, and, most importantly, finally finishing our damn album.

That's right. The ostensible original reason for this blog has finally reached a conclusion.

Over the last few weeks, we've listened to several different mixes of the album and offered Dave, our patient engineer and chaperone, our disparate feedback on said mixes.

Doc: Dave, I think the kick drum is too loud in "Darkness."
Barret: Dave, I can't hear the kick drum in "Darkness."
Aoife: There are drums on "Darkness?"
Joe: Can we talk about the vocals again?
Dave (pretending to twist knobs and type on keyboard): There... I cut the 1.5 mhz .25 db and increased the flob-fer 698 CX effect.
Band together: Sounds a lot better!!!

You get the idea. Somehow, it came down to two Sundays ago at about 10:00 in the evening. We had reached about the fifth hour of tweaking and massaging these 9 tracks we had started working on over a year ago.

Suddenly, we realized it: there was nothing left to do. All of us were sufficiently happy (or perhaps insufficiently unhappy) with how it all sounded.

We. Were. Done. Last Thursday, Barret and Doc took the final mixes to Colossal Mastering in Bucktown and the talented Dan Stout added the final layer of audio post-production called mastering. Mastering adds the final polish, brings the volume of the CD up, cleans up the beginnings and ends of the tracks, and fixes any problems. Dan is a pro, probably the most in-demand masterer in the city, and the fact that he was impressed with the quality of both the sound and music was a good sign. Also a good sign was the fact that it only took 3 hours to master our disc instead of the estimated 5, largely because Dave had done such a good job with the mixes that there was little for Dan to fix.

So on Friday, I popped by Doc's and got a copy of the final, mastered product. Gina and I drove around and listened to it from beginning to end, and let me tell you... It sounds amazing. I'm not one to be big on my own work as I am hypercritical of myself, but I really believe we have something special here.

The thing I'm most proud of is that the album has a sound and it is the sound of Burn Rome Burn. This album could have only been made by the four of us, with all our various tastes and influences. There are moments that, even after hearing them literally thousands of times in the last year, give me chills. There are moments where I think "Only Burn Rome Burn would do that." There are moments that scare me and make me nervous.

But most of all, there are moments that make me think we are building a body of work, an ouvre that will continue to grow and develop but always sound like us. Like Burn Rome Burn. And this sound has come out of the last two and a half years of late nights in our rehearsal studio, out of shows we played to a dozen people in Cleveland on a Tuesday night, out of fighting with each other, out of making up, out of drinking and laughing together, out of disagreeing, out of weekends in the studio, out of care, out of just being us...

Tomorrow morning Barret and I are going to the CD duplicators to put the duplication process in motion. We'll likely have the CD in hand in three weeks.

So I'll let you all know when you can get your copy of Burn Rome Burn's first full-length album: Bottle Boy


Monday, September 19, 2005

More frickin' lists

Things done:

1. Wrote portions of 3 new songs
2. Performed Odyssey 3 times at Hinsdale High School
3. Got hugged in front of class by senior year history teacher from OPRF (now Asst. Principal at Hinsdale)
4. Attended wedding
5. Smoked a cigar
6. Watched Bears kick ass
7. Went to studio and finalized mixes

Things to do:

1. Blog
2. Buy flowers for wife for anniversary number 2
3. Listen to completed album
4. Send CD artwork to duplicator
5. Send artwork to web designer
7. Perform Odyssey 3 more times at Hinsdale High School
8. Sing National Anthem at charity run/walk on the lakeshore
9. Obsess

Things to buy at store:

1. Beans with bacon
2. Toothbrush
3. Floss (?)
4. Soy Milk
5. Feta cheese


Monday, September 12, 2005


Things to do this week:

Monday - sleep
Tuesday - listen to final mixes of album
Wednesday - teach private lesson
Thursday - perform Odyssey 3 times for high school English classes
Friday - ?

Songs to Demo for Band: Atlantis Ark Losing Kind Travesty in Blue Why You Had to Fall Regret Orpheus Rising

Songs to Finish Writing: Maybe (Almost) A host of other bits of ideas I haven't had time to work on lately.

Things to Buy at Grocery Store: Pledge Lunch meat Milk Parmesan Cheese Cetaphil


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ah Sleep

I'd like to see you again soon.

For whatever reason, you haven't been around much lately. Sometimes I sit up reading, writing or watching TV, hoping you'll call. Sometimes I stay up late carousing, hoping I'll bump into you. Sometimes I have to get up early to go to work and just miss you. Sometimes I wake up an hour before my alarm is set to go off and you're gone.

Tonight I've been on my knees for the last three hours ripping up carpet. That's not a euphemism. And I've got to get up in six hours to finish ripping up carpet.

Ah Sleep. I haven't seen your friend Mr. Sleeping Pill for a week now. Maybe he could convince you to see me again. Can't see you tomorrow night (teaching until late, getting up early) and Friday night's out (playing up in Madison, working Saturday morning), so let's set a date for Saturday.

Saturday it is then. That's when I'll next have the pleasure of your company. And if I play my cards right, maybe you'll even share my bed.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I guess I'm not alone in noticing that it's been a little less than four years since tragedy so completely dominated the news.

That is, if you don't count war, global climate change, poverty, disease, and genocide. I got to the point last week where I just had to stop reading and watching the reports coming out of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast. It was just too much. In some sense, it was worse than watching 9/11 (at least for me) because the actual events of 9/11 unfolded in just a few hours.

The destruction of NO is an ongoing affair, now reaching into its second week. I'd rather take the bandaid off all at once, really fast. My feelings on the situation vacillate from anger to nausea to helplessness... and while I'm usually one of the first to get involved in thinking and talking about the politics of any given event, the bitching on both sides has really gotten to me.

Who screwed up and why are both legitimate questions to ask with regard to a failure of public authority on this magnitude, but PLEASE: can't we wait until people are safe, dry and fed? Can't we dedicate the time, money and energy we put into immediately assigning blame and deflecting criticism into actual relief efforts? Couldn't the news companies, instead of hiring security and flying Anderson Cooper and Shephard Smith in and out of disaster areas in helicopters, use these resources to save people?

I'm getting angry again thinking about it. I don't usually cry at things. I have pretty high tolerance for both physical and emotional pain. But I was reading a story in the Tribune yesterday about a lawyer from the north suburbs who got in his car last week, left his work and family (with their blessing) and just drove down to Houston to volunteer at the Astrodome. He helped feed people, carry the injured, he even read stories to children. Then, he took one of the refugees and personally drove this man hundreds of miles to a family member's house.

So I was trying to read this story out loud to Gina and it just got the best of me. I got choked up and couldn't get past the second paragraph. A similar thing happened at a family get-together on Sunday. We gathered at my parents' house in Oak Park to belatedly celebrate by parents' birthdays and to preemptively celebrate (two split infinitives in one sentence!) my sister's birthday.

As usual, it was a good time. Food, presents, a lot of laughter. Then, out of nowhere, my dad got really serious and gave a little speech about how sometimes we fight, sometimes we yell, but we never really know the last time we'll see each other and he wanted us to know that no matter what, no matter what the last thing he said to us was, the thing we should remember is that he loves all of us. Wow. Not a dry eye in the house.

You'd like to think that tragedies can change people permanently. You'd like to think that we can learn from them, both as individuals and as a people, as a country. I'm pretty cynical about the latter, but the former is up to each and every one of us alone.

And it seems like a lot of little gestures, from donating whatever you can to the Red Cross to telling your family and friends that you love them, can add up to something real, something palpable, something that'll help those in immediate need and also help us all get out of bed in the morning.

So let me follow my father's example and say that I love you all with all my heart.

It says so in my blog.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Possum Hunter

At around 10:00 pm last night, I let Hendrix out.

Gina was in the yard with him, and called to me to bring the keys down and let our tenants' dog Uno out, too. So I did. Uno is a big friendly lab/pit bull mix. He's extremely happy and not the least bit aggressive, but when he wants his 100 pound plus body to go somewhere, it usually does.

So Uno comes into the yard and immediately heads for the dog run in the back of the yard, barking, and jumping up against the back fence. This is not an uncommon occurrence. There seems to be no bigger offense a neighbor can commit than to, gasp, walk his or her dog in our alley. Can you believe the nerve of some people?

Anyway, I immediately noticed that this commotion was for a different reason, namely that there was a huge possum perched on our back fence, some seven feet above the ground, but just inches above the jaws of a lunging Uno. Not one to feel left out, Hendrix too was barking and jumping, although I'm not sure he even knew what he was barking and jumping about.

So from my vantage point on the porch I can see this R.O.U.S hanging on for dear life, but Gina can't... until she gets to the back of the yard and comes nearly face to face with said R.O.U.S. Which sends her literally screaming back towards the house. Screaming. I get the hose and turn it on the dogs to get them away from the fence.

Our elderly neighbor to the west emerges to see what the screaming and barking is about. Gina has taken up a position as far away as she can get from our furry visitor, who is still perched on the fence, looking dazed and pissed off. I requisition a 12 foot piece of wooden trim that is sitting by our garbage can and start to poke, prod, and eventually bang away at the beast in an attempt to get him to jump down into the alley.

But he's having nothing of it. He bites the wood, he grabs the fence tighter, he even wraps his spindly tail around my weapon as I try to push him. Next, I try shining a bright flashlight in his eyes. No luck. He's now entrenched at one end of the fence and looks content to fight me from there. So I bring out the big guns: the hose.

Now there's a soaking wet possibly rabid definitely angry obviously resilient feral marsupial running back and forth the length of our 25 foot back fence as I chase its path with the hose. I felt like I was playing a carnival game.

Finally, the thing relents and disappears over the fence into the alley and I'm left feeling like an urban Steve Irwin. Although I guess Steve would have gone over, picked the possum up, antagonized it with his fingers, and then expressed amazement that it bit him.

There's always next time for that.

Joe Goodkin: Possum Hunter.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Time to get Crackin'

Somewhat of a watershed show for Burn Rome Burn on Friday night at Cubby Bear.

We opened up for Cracker. Or as my mother put it, "Cracker closed for Burn Rome Burn." Anyway, it was an unqualified success on all fronts. First of all, just the opportunity to meet and watch a band like Cracker was informative in itself.

These guys are all in their late 40's and have been musicians for over two decades. They've been in bands as avant garde as Monks of Doom, as indie-popular as Camper van Beethoven, and as commercially successful as Cracker. And there was not one ounce of pretension in any of them. Instead of a tour bus, they rolled up in a Chevy Astro Van with a trailer. They had one roadie/sound guy. They unloaded their gear and their merchandise.

Second of all, over 500 tickets were sold in advance of the show. And I believe the crowd numbered almost 700 when all was said and done, most of whom were there early and saw our set.

Third of all, we played as polished and energetic a show as we have yet and seemed to win the crowd over pretty handily. Not that it was note perfect (the sound was a little strange), but I think we pretty much brought it in terms on conviction and being comfortable in front of a big crowd. It didn't hit me until after our first three songs, when I had to talk.

There were a good 300 plus people packed in the middle of the club, up against the stage. As most of our fans and family were standing back by the soundboard, these people up front were the die-hard Cracker fan variety. They were there to see Cracker, not Burn Rome Burn. And we could have bombed.

But everyone up front was really into it and we would up getting rid of over 300 CDs. After the show, I walked into the crowd to see my family. I'm not the kind of person who goes fishing for eye contact or praise, but I could not walk 5 feet without a stranger approaching me and telling me how much he or she enjoyed our set.

What a great feeling. I was trying to figure out if this show or our House of Blues show was more important to us as a band, and I think each one showed us something about our band. The HOB showed us we can play a place that large and bring enough energy and noise to make it work.

With this Cracker show, I think we proved that we can win over a big audience of people who are completely unfamiliar with our music. Afterwards, I had to cut out before Cracker finished playing because we had an 8:00 am flight to catch on Saturday to go a wedding in Cleveland. But I got to see a bunch of their set. In a weird way (that is, not at all stylistically) they reminded me of a modern version of The Band.

The rest of the band stuck around to the end and hung out a bit with Cracker and had nothing but great things to say about them personally. Couple this show with the fact that Sunday saw the completion and recording of most of the strings for the Burn Rome Burn album, and I think that after slogging away at the recording process for nearly a year, we've stumbled into a new momentum...


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Eternal Mermaid of the Spotless Atlantis

I don't know how, but I feel guilty about a song I wrote. And lately, even though the song is four years old, it's been really bugging me.

Maybe it's finally hearing the song fully realized in well-recorded form. Maybe it's remembering when the song was written and knowing it was a rough time in my life when I was less than a good person. And I'm a bit stymied that such an asshole could write such a beautiful song.

And I'm not sure I would have written the song if I hadn't been such an asshole. For a while, every time this guilt would rear it's head, I would aspire to fight fire with fire and write a song in response to it. Sort of like a sequel to the original song. But as most of my over-calculated attempts at writing go, so has this one. And I've been left with squat. Until now. As it usually happens, I finally got into my redemption song through the back door.

So to speak.

So many times, I've started writing a song about (in best William Shatner voice) some thing, something in particular, only to get to the end of the song and realize I've really been writing about something else. It's very strange in a way, but I've come to embrace it and it's resulted in a bunch of songs which convey (I hope) the very ambiguity that figured into their genesis.

Anyway, I recently saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time and it really affected me... just a beautiful movie which manages to accomplish what I often try to do in song: make a simple point through a sophisticated, poetic and challenging vehicle.

In the case of ESotSM, I felt that the underlying theme was this very real struggle couples go through in reconciling the inevitable negatives of everyday, mundane life, with their pure magical (for lack of a better word) love for each other. So I started writing a song about this idea... I had some nice chords worked out and a first verse and chorus came fairly quickly. Then things kind of stalled. I knew I wanted three verses, and nothing was happening.

After a week of frustration, a second verse was born, but thematically it was quite different. Ditto a third verse. I noticed that these verses were really more personal than the first, and I began to see that this core idea of ESotSM had some relation to the time in my life when I wrote the "guilt producing" song. And so, I hope, I've written a suitable sequel...

ATLANTIS Wouldn't we all like it back? When this was new, and there was no past To rob us of the sun that shines On the moment when we both realized Chorus: I'm right here It's still clear Why it's worth All these tears And on that wall above the sea Where the wine-dark waters sing their melody We watch the island come alive With crosses, white against the Grecian sky Chorus And now we've come down off the wall Even empires and islands rise and fall We watch the sunset streak the sky And know it's a dawn for other eyes Chorus


Monday, August 22, 2005

Hold on, Magnolia

Somehow, another week has gotten away from me with nary a post. Never fear. I'm back, baby.

Had a couple of good rehearsals last week in anticipation of our big show opening for Cracker on Friday. Also went to a party to celebrate the passing of an important institution: the brick 3 flat in Edgewater that has housed at least two of my group of friends since the winter of 1998.

The chronology, as far as I can remember, goes something like this (identities obscured to protect the guilty):

December of 1998: a certain B___ K. moves into a first floor apartment on the 5900 block of North Magnolia ("Magnolia") with a college friend. On New Year's Eve '98-'99, he hosts what stands as one of the five best parties I've ever been to. 

August of 1999: a certain J___ G. moves in with B___ K.

New Year's Eve 1999: J___ G. and B____ K. throw what stands as one of the three best parties J____G. has, er... I've ever been to.

2000: B___ K. moves out of the first floor apartment, a certain J____ V. moves in with J_____ G. C_____ M., D_____ B., and M_____ M. move into the second floor apartment.

New Year's Eve 2000: the first and second floor apartments of Magnolia host what stands as one of the one best parties I've ever been to.

2001: Magnolia is sold to a new landlord, who lays plans to renovate the entire building and move into the first floor apartment. The future of Magnolia looks grim. Plans are laid to move. Diaspora looks imminent.

August of 2001: A reprieve! In a last minute show of clemency, new landlord allows J____ G., M_____ M., and J______ V. to move into the newly renovated third floor apartment.

August of 2002: J_____ V. moves out, P_____ moves in and quickly becomes known as the "phantom" roommate.

August of 2003: J____ G. moves out to get married. P____ moves out. The future again looks grim, but at the last moment, G____ G. and M_____ P. move in with M____ M. to carry on the legacy. 

September 1, 2005: G___ G., M_____ P., and M_____ M. will be moving on, leaving Magnolia uninhabited by the Oak Park crew for the first time in nearly 8 years.

So indeed, a place that I called home for four years will now be a thing of the past. Lots of great things happened there, lots of not so great things.

I remember moving in with my best friend, fresh from college, first apartment, all the optimism and naivete. I remember listening to so much music... The Who, Elvis Costello, Jimi Hendrix, Black Crowes... I remember forming my first band. I remember writing and recording a lot of music, some of which I still perform today. I remember burgers and beers in Moody's Beer Garden and the questionable third pitcher on a Thursday night. I remember riding the Red Line downtown, always getting a seat. I remember the Pumping Company and penny pitchers. I remember falling asleep to the sounds of a manual typewriter and the smell of a midnight cigarette. I remember getting my tonsils out and lying in my dad's old recliner for two weeks doped up on liquid Vicodin. I remember consuming large amounts of alcohol and not a few recreational substances. I remember bringing home my furry companion Hendrix, all 28 pounds of him. I remember coming home from all-nighters in the studio. I remember basketball at Senn High School. I remember being dumped by my future wife on my 24th birthday for having my head up my ass. I remember losing a good friend and roommate to egos, stubbornness, and immaturity. I remember 7 months of drifting, and all its costs and benefits. I remember moving up two flights of stairs. I remember sitting on the couch in the third floor apartment with Hendrix watching the events of September 11th unfold, and then going out for lunch with my landlord. I remember hours and hours in my bedroom, writing the Odyssey, singing into a tape recorder. I remember being barely employed. I remember shopping at Dominick's on Broadway. I remember countless hours at the Senn High School dog park with Hendrix. I remember parties and parties and parties and parties. I remember breaking up with my first band, and forming my second band. I remember jogging the lakeshore path. I remember breakfasts at The Little Corner. I remember morning bloody marys at the dive bar across from Little Corner. I remember puking in my own bed from falling off the wagon during the Bears' playoff game. I remember pulling my head out of my ass. I remember getting engaged. I remember hours and hours of great conversations with the best friends I've ever had, and many I no longer talk to. I remember sitting on the roof in the summer sun nervously calling high schools and trying to get them to let me perform The Odyssey. I remember watching football games with a hangover. I remember attending my landlord's wedding. I remember moving out of Magnolia and into the next phase of my life, somehow emerging a stronger person for all the shit I went through while living there.

Hold on, Magnolia...


Sunday, August 14, 2005

There's Something About Sunday

I don't know what... an obvious reminder of passing time maybe?

Can I have a blog entry without talking about time? Can I stop asking rhetorical questions of myself on my own blog?

Captain Narcissism strikes again. Better than Capt'n Tenille I guess. Actually I don't guess: I know. It's better.

Anyway... last night I drove back into the city from the suburbs at about 10:00. I was playing the last of a three week run of shows out in Oak Park. The show was a 50's music review I've played a few times over the last three years. It's easy, fun, and cash money. A chance to keep my chart-reading chops up and play with some very cool and talented guys.

I returned home to a backyard party in celebration of our friend Teri's birthday. Teri also lives below us with her fiance Dave. They've rented from us for almost two years and in that time we've become good friends. It was a fantastically cool summer evening, the yard was lit up with torches, columns, and a beautiful fire, and the beer was flowing freely. Great group of people hanging out too...

The whole scene just served to deepen my lifetime-long love (excuse me, Mr. Nabakov, I've "borrowed" your favorite alliterative consonant for a moment) affair with the city of Chicago. I don't know why, I just know I've got this damn city in my blood. I love walking, jogging, driving, riding the train... anything to see parts of the city I haven't yet seen, anything to revisit familiar places with a fresh eye and be amazed anew. I especially like the rainy days, the windy days... anything to bring the sky a little bit lower, anything for the clouds to swallow the Sears Tower's twin spikes.

There have been a few good songs written about Chicago. Not the obvious songs... like Sweet Home Chicago (although the original Robert Johnson recording is s-p-o-o-k-y)... but songs like the Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight"... "and the embers never fade in your city by the lake..." Or almost anything Wilco has done... "taxicabs are driving me around..."

There's an incredible sense of place in that music, a sense of this place, of our place. So the cool weather brought back memories of last winter, of riding the train in the post-time-change afternoon darkness, trudging through the slush, and trying to capture love with futile awkward words (do I know any other kind?)...

Travesty of Blue (Kathy's Song) The picture where we moved you looked like me And somehow the light arranged itself in a "t" They always take at the start what matters the most They always shoot first and ask questions once you're a ghost It's raining glass on the lake tonight As clouds divide the nightmare sky And lightening strikes the Tower's heights It echoes... I saw him hanging on Western Avenue His eyes were born in a travesty of blue And the empty car lots gave way to something else And the pavement cracks grew up as winter fell It's raining glass on the lake tonight As clouds divide the nightmare sky And lightening strikes the Tower's heights It echoes... It's raining stars on the streets tonight As clouds divide the nightmare sky And lightening strikes the Tower's spikes It echoes... It echoes... It echoes...


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why You Had to Fall

You struggled for words And even when you spoke, nodody heard How the night bloodied your brown eyes And left your pillow a blackened sky It will come clear Why you had to fall Even the sun must have its stars And even the coal can learn to shine, shine, shine So when the clouds roll in your eyes We'll drink the rain as if its wine It will come clear Why you had to fall Sometimes you fly... Sometimes you fly...


"It feels like Star Wars tonight..."

"And the Empire's been defeated... and there will be medals and Wookies... And I'm the princess." 

More immortal words, these from Rufus Wainwright last night at Ravinia. A princess indeed. And an incredibly talented princess at that.

Backtracking for a moment, each month Gina and I take turns planning a monthly "surprise" date. Past surprise dates have included dinner at a nice steakhouse, high-end seafood, and attending a Jamaican cooking class. It's a lot of fun and we've gotten kind of competitive in trying to plan cool dates and keep the other person off balance as to when it will happen.

So August was my month to plan a date, and it only took one look at the Ravinia calendar to know what I wanted to do: The Ben Folds/Rufus Wainwright concert. It was perfect. It was music we both wanted to see, it was a night she'd never expect, it was a beautiful setting, it was... SOLD OUT.

Arrggghhh. I set about watching online scalpers and the like and thought I was out of luck until... one of my students saved the day with two extra lawn tickets. Sold to me at face value.


So yesterday in the late afternoon, much to Gina's delight, I revealed the surprise. We stopped by the store, got some wine, cheese and crackers, and headed up to the northern suburbs. Ravinia is an ideal place for a summer concert. There's a large, beautiful pavilion with a great stage, but the bigger draw is the multi-acre lawn section, from which you can't see the stage, but you can lie back on your blanket, look up at the stars, drink your wine, and listen to the music being piped through speakers scattered around the grounds.

All for $15.

We got there at about 7:15 for the 8:00 show and the lawn was already packed with people. People really go all out with buffet tables, candles, you name it. So we wedged our way into the lawn with our little blanket and picnic backpack and settled into our food and wine.

At about 8:00, opener Ben Lee began his half an hour set. I realized that I'd heard one of his songs on WXRT recently. He's Australian and was an endearing performer who played good pop music. A nice beginning to the night.

Next was the main event: Rufus.

Rufus Wainwright simply makes music that no one else is making. A blend of classical, opera, folk, pop... as sophisticated as music gets but also honest, simple, and direct. And his voice... he's one of the few singers who has a voice that is actually better live than on CD. And his voice is amazing on CD. It's just that 1's and 0's can't capture the size, depth and range of his baritone. I doubt any audio format could. It defies description.

Rufus played for a little under an hour, leaving us wanting more. He played two or three new (unrecorded) songs, which were cool to hear. He played a bunch of songs off of his latest album, Want Two, a few from Want One, and just one from Poses. He also did a cover of the Leonard Cohen tune Hallelujah (made famous by Jeff Buckley).

Overall, it was nothing short of breathtaking.

His personality onstage matches his music: he's honest, sometimes to a fault, chatting the audience up about such things as the boot strap he was wearing as a choker (not kidding), how well-dressed the people in the front row were compared to the audience for a recent show in Atlantic City, and even letting out an audible "BLERH" during a song when he thought he made a mistake. Just amazing and inspiring.

Ben Folds, whom I like a lot, suffered from having to follow Rufus on. Or course, almost anybody would. He and his band seemed a bit sloppy and uninspired and I thought the overall sound was thin, as they were lacking a guitarist and playing as a piano, bass, drums trio. Which is fine for a lot of Ben Folds' older material, but on his second to last album, Rockin' the Suburbs (which, ironically, he was doing last night), he added a lot of cool heavy guitar, and the songs from that album sounded incomplete without it.

Ben Folds did play a hysterical piano rock version of the Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg classic Gin 'n' Juice. Not kidding. Alone worth the price of the ticket.

All in all a great show.

In closing his set with the song Gay Messiah, Rufus said this: "In America right now, it's not a good time. If you're black, if you're gay, if you're a woman, if you're poor... you're fucked."

Indeed, Mr. Princess.

But for one night, you made it pretty easy to forget just how fucked.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Time makes you bolder Children get older I'm getting older too

So go the immortal words (can words be mortal? What distinguishes the mortal words from the immortal words?) of one Ms. Stevie Nicks. I've never been a particularly big Fleetwood Mac fan, but I've always thought Landslide was a pretty good song... hell, I was one of two people who liked the Smashing Pumpkins' version.

The other person was Billy Corgan.

Anyway, perhaps my attraction to this song has to do with its subject matter, namely, time and getting older. I've already (over) documented my feelings on time, but this week I've been even more preoccupied with it due to the fact that I attended my 10 year high school reunion on Saturday night. Indeed. The 1995 Class of Oak Park/River Forest High School reunion was at the bar Fitzgerald's in Berwyn (that's BEEERRRR-wyynnnnn for you Sven-Goolie fans).

Gina and I didn't get there until a little after 10:00 pm, and this was a smart move. The prospect of being in the bar when the reunion started at 8:00 pm and sitting around stone-cold sober watching people file in was too much for me to handle. And I had a gig. So by the time we got there, it was packed and most of the crowd was already several or more drinks into their magical liquid coping mechanisms.

And I joined them via the wings of Guinness immediately upon arrival. Overall, it was actually a great time. As I hoped, I saw a lot of people with whom I hadn't kept in touch. And almost everybody seemed to be doing pretty well for themselves. Of course there were a few people who looked like they'd had a bad decade but... them's the breaks I guess. And secretly (or not so) everybody goes to high school reunions to see the trainwrecks, right?

My favorite moment was when my senior year Valetine's Day Dance date didn't recognize me. That episode and other's reactions to my appearance reminded me: in high school, I had a crew cut, no facial hair, and weighed 145 pounds. And now I look like a well-fed Jesus. People did a lot of hanging around with their lunch groups and I guess I understand that... nobody seemed to be harboring any decade-old hatred towards me for some perceived social slight. Not that I was really in the position to do much social slighting in high school.

And to this it's only 10 years until our next reunion.

On an unrelated note, I have figured out how to solve our current summer drought: I will just water our plants everyday. Because last night, not 30 minutes after I spent an hour carefully wetting our parched backyard, the previously cloudless sky started laughing at me and laughed so hard it cried.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

It's only time after all, redux

In reading over my last post, I'm not sure I really got the core of how I was feeling when I wrote it. But it's nice to know somebody reads this thing.

As such, further thoughts and conversations regarding the issues of time and creativity yielded the following conclusions:

1. What was really bothering me was not my current lack of time to put towards songwriting: it was the question of whether I'll ever have enough time to satisfy my own self-imposed demands of and standards for being creative.

2. More than time per se, I was also frustrated over the pace at which I write songs, which is not a function of available time: it's a function of me and my process. I'm not Jason Molina or Ryan Adams, or any of these songwriters that just seem to crank out songs, even though I'd like to be that productive.

3. Jason Molina = Joyce Carol Oates = Tennessee Williams. Trust me. It's been proven by people waaaaaayyyy smarter than you or me.

4. Stephen King, while perhaps a model of productivity, is not so much one for quality. Or much of a spokesman for D.A.R.E.

5. Although I hold up Jason Molina as an example, I am not a party to his process. More likely than not, he writes more songs because he writes all the time. He writes just as much crap as anyone else, throws it out, and writes until he gets something he likes. That's just how it works.

6. Ditto for Beethoven. But in the past tense.

So it is always time, after all.