Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 In Review

And the review for the year 2007, is just a two word review... "Shit Sandwich."

Okay... that's not real. You can't print that... and it's more than a little unfair.

Let me try again... "2007: the writing was strong but the production sucked." Hmmm... better, closer, warmer... That's the thing... 2007 was such a complex year that reviewing it in anything less than about 10,000 words just won't cut it.

And I'm not that committed to analyzing it here and now...

So... I will just say this: 2007 had undoubtedly the most difficult times I've ever experienced, both directly and indirectly. It was the most challenging year of my life... and just when I thought it was on a smoother path, there were some unexpected bumps... like the year was about a week too long.

But... mixed in with all the challenge, with all the crap... were too many stars, too many diamonds to just call 2007 a Shit Sandwich and be done with it. There were too many laughs mixed with the tears, too many triumphs mixed with the sorrow, too many connections forged among the breakups... and too much healing within all the heartbreak.

So... my final review of 2007: "I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats."

And here's to 2008... for all the promise, all the plans, all the adventure... I'm ready.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Things We'd Rather Lose

We dreamt of birds, all blue and loud That fly through the night and hang from the clouds And come to us here in these moments of fear As the north star appears and the road falls away Out in the darkness I'm spinning in place With my eyes to the sky and my hands to my face Somewhere between all the dead and the dreams You're waiting for me in the static Oh, everything dear disappears Oh, into the blue Oh, we're left holding on to the things we'd rather lose The highways are burning, the night's at an end But we're still sleeping and dreaming of when The skyscrapers fell, the smoke and the smell Of the dark devouring light and love Oh, everything dear disappears Oh, into the blue Oh, we're left holding on to the things we'd rather lose Oh, we're left holding on to the things we'd rather lose


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Twin Towers

I can't believe the year is almost over... It seems impossible. I guess time speeds up for all of us as we get older.

Thanksgiving this year was good... it had a little bit of everything: food, family, friends, fbeer, fsleep. You get the fidea. As good as all the socializing and carousing was, I think my favorite moment of a much-needed long weekend was my quiet Friday night at home, which I spent in my recently-assembled office sitting in front of my Mac, sifting through the songs I've demoed over the last few months, and recording the songs I hadn't yet...

I wound up with, I think, 18 tunes. Most were written this year, with a couple holdovers from late last year. Seeing these tunes all there as sound files, lined up in one folder, I got a true feeling of accomplishment... a feeling of excitement for the future recording of this jigsaw document of a year of my life...

I can start to see the common threads that run through this group of songs and it feels like this group is almost complete... maybe a couple more to add but... it really seems like, if the first Paper Arrows' disc is about loss, this group of songs is about how you reclaim your heart after loss... how you start to rebuild yourself... how you have to navigate the push and pull of the past and future and how those forces act on your heart and your head... how the process creates these feelings of nausea and nostalgia and hope and fear all rolled into one...

And as I went to bed on Friday night as the winter wind worked the trees outside my living room and the blue light of the TV pulled my already heavy eyes even closer to sleep my computer screen flickered in my head and I could see all the song titles and I could see all the sound waves which somehow stood for an entire year of my life which somehow stood for me and as I got closer and closer to sleep I went deeper and deeper into the computer screen into the sound waves until I got to the deepest point possible and instead of it being a small place a tiny place like at the bottom of a well it was a giant place a place as big as the sky and in the distance I could see what looked like two towers rising up and I walked closer and closer and started to run and ran closer and closer and the towers were way farther away than I thought and I had to run what seemed like a marathon to get there but as I got closer I could see that the two towers were rising up out of an island and they weren't towers at all they were actually two human hearts and there were crews of men working on each heart building it up and up and up and up towards the sky construction crews with cranes and scaffolding and the hearts were reaching up and parts were unfinished and I could see inside and see blood running through giant arteries and as I got closer still I could hear something I could hear something I could feel something I could feel the ground vibrate and there were two distinct sounds and beats and I instantly knew there were two heartbeats and the hearts were beating and I came upon a workman near the base of these giant hearts and I asked him what they were doing and he said today they were trying to sync up the two heartbeats and I asked how do you do that and he said they were planning on stopping the hearts and restarting them at the same time together and I said isn't that dangerous to stop a heart and he said yes and there was a yell from above explosions below someone yelled and at that moment there were tremendous explosions from both hearts and suddenly there was just nothing no beat just a faint echo of the explosions mixed with the final jagged beats of the two and every workman stopped what he was doing and looked up at the hearts and we waited and waited and waited for what seemed like forever and ever and waited some more and I still heard a single heart beat and I realized it was my own heart and I realized I was holding my breath and then again there were two more explosions and we waited again for what seemed like hours but was really a moment suspended in time and then quietly at first but with gathering intensity both hearts began to beat in one united beat and the workmen cheered and the heartbeats grew stronger as they beat together and seemed to feed off of one another and the workmen cheered louder and louder and hearts beat louder and stronger and I couldn't hear myself think and I realized that somehow my own heart was beating in time with the skyscraper hearts

and I smiled.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From the Highway

We dreamt of birds All blue and loud That fly through the night And hang from the clouds And come to us here In these moments of fear As the light disappears And the road falls away Out in the darkness I'm spinning in place With my eyes to sky And my hands to my face Somewhere between All the dead and the dreams Is a story we need To believe in


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Some albums scare me. Scare me for being so good, so close, so close to the truth...

The Truth? The truth of human existence, I guess? The truth of A(N) human's existence?

Scare me for being a record of that truth, preserved in wax, preserved on tape, preserved in 1's and 0's maybe now... but preserved... captured and preserved.

There aren't a lot of these albums... I mean, there are a lot of really good even great albums... but how many transcendent albums are there? How many albums that actually scare you? A handful? 8? 12? I don't know...

But I do know that one of them is the Joni Mitchell album Blue. Quite frankly, this album scares me half to death and makes me want to stop writing music. Okay, that might be going a little bit too far... actually, that's kind of a lesson in inspiration... a lot of great records have intimidated and baffled me, made me want to quit, made me feel completely inadequate in every musical way possible... until I've wrestled with them for years... broken them down... considered them from different angles in different settings in different times of my life...

For instance: Jimi Hendrix. For years, I loved him, I learned just about every note he ever recorded... but I had no clue where he was coming from... it felt like he fell out of the sky, popped out of Zeus' head fully-formed in 1967, and released Are You Experienced?

But the thing is, even the most innovative artists have context... they all came from somewhere, listened to something, watched something... tried to emulate somebody. And once I started listening to Albert King, I finally got where Hendrix was coming from... that's not to say it made him any less impressive to me... but it made him a little less mysterious... it was comforting to think that, just like I was, Jimi probably sat down in front of his record player (okay, mine was a CD player) and listened to Albert King and learned his riffs. What he did with those riffs was incredible... was where the genius lay... and at least I could hear the connection... really, more FEEL the connection and understand the context.

But there's something different about albums like Blue: it's not the musical innovation per se that is so striking... it's the honesty, it's the absolute truth with which the artist approaches the writing and singing... it's what is captured in the songs... One of the many powers of music is its ability to take one back (in an almost Proustian manner) to certain times in your life... a trigger of involuntary memory and a memory that is deeper than just remembering places and things... a memory that is rooted in emotion, in impression, in something larger than words. Again, this base level of existence and meaning.

Blue will always make me think of two times in particular: 1.) Basting chicken wings in my underwear in my tiny kitchen senior year in college with Greg while singing Old Man at the top of our lungs. 2.) Camping with Ben somewhere on the Oregon coast just steps from the water, sitting around a fire under the clear dark ocean sky, listening to the entirety of the album on a Discman in complete silence. 

One of my students recently brought Blue in, and we listened to a bit of it... and I think it stuck somewhere in my brain that I needed to revisit it... I hadn't listened to it in over a year, maybe even two, and no longer had it in my music collection...

So on Sunday, one of the first (and maybe only?) incredible fall days, leaving Madison after a picture-perfect weekend getaway to visit my uncle, as the growing late-afternoon darkness reminded us that the clocks had indeed finally changed, we drove around town, stopping at three different record stores before finally laying our hands on a copy of Blue.

The first notes of All I Want hit as we turned onto John Nolen Drive and put Otis Redding's watery grave behind us. By the time we got on the Beltline and finally the Interstate, we were in the middle of it... For maybe the first time, I listened, really listened to the lyrics... I've always been so overwhelmed and taken with just the quality of her singing, I guess I've never really listened to the lyrics as closely as I should have...

By the time we hit the open road, River was on... and I finally picked up on the lyrical almost bait 'n' switch, how she starts out writing about one thing and suddenly she turns the tune on its head halfway through and it's a love song... and the way she sings "I made my baby cry," which is the thematic turning point... similar to the Death Cab tune "What Sarah Said," actually... that type of songwriting where there's a punchline, a twist... I still haven't figured out how to do that right.

And finally, on to the last two tunes, which I suppose like the last couple of tunes on any album one tends not to hear as much... In this case, A Case of You and The Last Time I Saw Richard. The verse in A Case of You... "I remember that time that you told me, you said Love is touching souls Surely you touched mine Cause part of you pours out of me In these lines from time to time" I mean, wow.

And The Last Time I Saw Richard... "Richard got married to a figure skater And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on And all the house lights left up bright I'm gonna blow this damn candle out I don't want nobody comin over to my table I got nothing to talk to anybody about All good dreamers pass this way some day Hiding behind bottles in dark cafes Dark cafes Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings And fly away Only a phase, these dark cafe days"

Talk about a marriage of lyrics, melody, and performance, and again this turn of the lyric at the end, where, just as things get darkest, there's ray of hope... The album finished, and we sat in silence... I guess I modeled the Paper Arrows album, whether it was initially conscious or unconscious, on Blue. Or hoped to model it on Blue. I don't know.

Where am I going with this? I don't know that, either. But I do know that the next time I hear Blue, I'll remember the light of the sunset illuminating a V of geese flying low across the November sky as we held on tight and the car rolled southeast along I-90 back to the real world.

And listened. And heard. And felt.


Friday, November 02, 2007


Happiness makes you cry.
Exhaustion is energizing.
The fall chill warms your heart.
Memories make you forget.
The past is in the present.

Silence... Crickets... Silence... Crickets... Silence... Silence...



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Steel Bones

And the morning came to pass Reflected in the colored glass Falling down on concrete skin And steel bones all trembling Night preys on the lonesome Losing days left and Right and wrong are nothing now The light has come and gone And the day, it sang a song A melody so clear and strong Echoing through broken dreams And steel bones and silent screams Night preys on the lonesome Losing days left and Right and wrong are nothing now The light has come and gone And the evening built a nest Against the winds of midnight's breath Steel bones are crumbling Beneath the weight of all the sin Night preys on the lonesome Losing days left and Right and wrong are nothing now The light has come and gone


Monday, October 15, 2007


Where have I been? Well... for one, I was trudging through the Wasteland that was the 2007 Chicago Marathon. Was it as bad as the press reported? Yes. I think it was. But I survived and finished and, thanks to my generous supporters, raised over $1000 for the American Cancer Society.

So there was that... and recovering from that, physically and emotionally. So I just wanted to stick my head up to say that good things are coming... Much news soon.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Explosions Below

Lately, I've been less hesitant. Less uncertain. More decisive. Still, perhaps not quite as decisive as I'd like to be. But better. So... here's something I'm a little hesitant about: sharing some lyrics. What, you say? You're NEVER hesitant about sharing lyrics. Sometimes for weeks at a time, that's ALL you share. And you'd be right about that. (You are SO smart) But these new lyrics are a little different.

 My writing over the last year or two has, I think, veered towards the personal and direct. Certainly the writing on the Paper Arrows' album did. But... lately, I think, I've fallen back a little bit into more impressionistic writing. Which is fine. I've been enjoying it. I think I do it better now... maybe I've found a better balance.

Anyway... So it came as a surprise last week when, on the plane ride home from L.A., I had one of the most vivid, difficult, personal, and ultimately (I guess) rewarding writing experiences I've ever had. It was pretty unbelievable actually... almost out of body.

I had no idea where I was going when I started writing and the whole thing kind of spiraled out of my control and left me a blubbering mess. Literally. Crying as quietly as possible in my seat, tens of thousands of feet in the air, scaring the crap out of my traveling companion... battling with the words in front of me as they poured out of my hand onto the paper. 
I don't know quite how else to describe it.

Out of body is probably the best way. So over the course of maybe 45 minutes, I rocked in my window seat, wept mostly silent tears, and with a singular focus chased and channeled the lyrical demon I'd unknowingly summoned... it just kept going and going and going.

What I was left with at the end of the experience is... something I'm almost afraid of. Something I've been trying to set to music, but not trying too hard... out of fear? Out of... I don't know. So... before I hesitate. Again.

EXPLOSIONS BELOW Explosions below And still lingering dreams Of funerals and arguments And trying to breathe As water runs in From impossible seas Saying goodbye Never leads where it seems To lead Burning my skin Til it peels away And hoping the coast Gives me something to say In the end it turned out I was borrowing days And I opened my eyes Just a little too late It's always too late It's all drifting away It's all fading to grey And I'm watching her go And I'm checking the phone And I'm waiting for love But it's never enough And I'm drying her eyes Like it means we'll survive Like it makes it okay That she's leaving today And taking her things And leaving her rings And I'm missing her laugh It's echoing out In the hollowed out rooms It's echoing loud And I'm sick of the ghosts And I'm tired of hope And I'm tired of tears So tired of tears I'm forgetting the days They're all slipping away I'm letting them fade Into shadows and graves Into thunder and rain Into sunshine and planes And explosions below And I'm hiding my face And I'm trying to breathe And I'm catching my breath And I'm ready to leave And I'm burning her name With my hand in the flames I'm turning the page Of the last thing that she gave me The last thing that she gave me The last thing that she gave me The last thing that she gave me The last thing that she gave me The last thing that she gave me


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Verge

Today is quiet... Or rather, today I'm quiet. Things are on the verge. That's probably the best way to put it.

Things are on the verge. The transitional weather seems to have spilled over into life... or maybe, given this summer's revelations regarding meteorological concurrences, life has spilled over into the jetstream. But somehow everything feels new, or as if it's going towards newness. And that means, of course, acknowledging the old and finding a way to say goodbye to it... trying desperately to hold on to the good and to be at peace with the bad... And today feels on the verge.

Tomorrow... it's off to L.A. Can't wait. Maybe life will be on the verge from here on out... maybe that's the new thing. Maybe being on the verge means you're always taking chances, always pushing limits, always moving forwards... it may be uncomfortable at times, but maybe it's the price you have to pay for living true, for taking risks, for moving on from failures, for saying goodbye, for grieving and drying your tears, for walking out on the wire with no net...

Maybe that's The Verge. And maybe, just maybe... I'm finally okay with that.


September 20.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

In The Small Hours

So I couldn't sleep last night... Which has been a rare occurance lately. Some combination of mild sleep medication, running 30 plus miles a week, the occasional beer, and feeling (relatively) more settled in life has meant that my insomnia has been more or less under control.

 But last night... Maybe it was the fact that I've been sick since Monday and sleeping like crazy and my mind had finally had enough sleep. Maybe I'm anxious about something. I don't know. In spite of enlisting some pharmaceutical help, I found myself wide awake past midnight. So instead of fighting it, I got up and adjorned to the living room to read and write... a practice I embraced quite a bit in previous times of sleeplessness.

The weather has been absolutely amazing the last few days... like we're walking a bridge between summer and fall and are lucky enough to get a week with weather that embraces the best of both seasons... the warmth and sun of summer tempered by the moderation, comfort, and change of fall...

As I sat in my living room, reminding myself I didn't have to work on Thursday and encouraging myself to take advantage of this rare day off to finish healing from my illness and just generally get a few things done which have been slipping through the cracks (whew), the smell of someone smoking on the street drifted through the open windows...

Late night smoke always reminds me of living on Magnolia Ave. with Ben... he was working a 2nd shift job and would come home about 10 o'clock at night from work... we would hang out for a bit and chat, and then I would go to bed and he would go out on the back porch and write... typing on an old manual typewriter and smoking cigarettes.

I would drift off to sleep to the steady beat of typewriter keys and the strangely comforting scent of smoke... Man, those were some great times. And simple times. And already, a long time ago. So I guess I had a little moment of Proustian nostalgia (best... etymology... ever: nostos - "a journey home" + algos - "sickness").

My voice has been pretty cashed from being sick so I've been taking the opportunity to try to write lyrics with no music... with the idea I'll go back when my voice is better and write the music... this is the opposite of how I usually work I guess... but Jay and I had a discussion a little while back about writing this way, and I've been trying it more and more... letting the lyrics and melody guide the music.

Anyway, I had a verse worked up I pieced together on the train on Monday as I was riding home from work, feeling sicker than sick... I took that verse, and tried to capture my post-midnight-insomnia-smoke-induced-pharmaceutical-influenced-weather-seasoned nostalgic feelings...

 UNTIL WE COULDN'T CRY NO MORE I missed your opening And lit the lights And crosses faded Into the night On top of copper Needles raised Into the sky And for the saved I'm reminded how I Sat with you and cried Until I Couldn't cry No more The smoke, it rose Into my room And down below The fires bloomed In tiny breaths The life was passed From lips to lips From first to last I'm reminded how I Sat with you and cried Until I Couldn't cry No more


Monday, September 10, 2007

We Couldn't Cry No More

I missed your opening And lit the lights And crosses faded Into the nights On top of copper Needles raised Into the sky Above your eyes I'm reminded How I Sat with you And cried Until We couldn't cry no more


Friday, September 07, 2007

One Month

Until the Chicago Marathon... Which I'm running. Three months of training down and so far, I've survived and I feel okay. Well, to tell you the truth, a lot of days I feel pretty awful. My legs hurt, my ass hurts (TMI), my skin is fucked up from sweating for four hours at a time...

I'm hungry ALL THE TIME and I'm tired ALL THE TIME. But... I'm almost there...

Also, I'm running as a Charity Athlete for the American Cancer Society... which means I'm raising money for the ACS through the race. If anyone is interested in sponsoring me, you can donate by going to my page here.

Help me turn my pain into someone else's gain.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


It's August? August is almost over? 2007? What? Wow. Take my silence as a sign of being busy... Lots and lots of things to report... so little time to report them.

But I'm T-minus two weeks... from having a bit more free time to do things I love... like blogging more than twice a month... and with real substance.

For real substance.



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More of More

Can you leave the ghost behind Breathe the kindness That echoes to tomorrow Beneath the easy sorrow That's bleeding into blame It's feeling all like someone Gave more than is good Gave more than one should More and more I'm starting to believe Would you say your skin Covers up and ocean Of waiting Of falling without end Would you say your sky Has broken into pieces And pieces Of unrelenting blue Can you leave the ghost behind Breathe the kindness That echoes to tomorrow Beneath the easy sorrow That's bleeding into shame It's feeling all like someone Gave more than is good Gave more than one should More and more I'm starting to believe Would you dream Of ashes in the embers Exploding into Someone's perfect flame Would you say your pray That into every loss Some life Some love will come Can you leave the ghost behind Breathe the kindness That echoes to tomorrow Beneath the easy sorrow That's bleeding into gray It's feeling all like someone Gave more than is good Gave more than one should More and more I'm starting to believe


Monday, July 30, 2007


Would you say you dream Of ashes in the embers Exploding into Someone's perfect flame Would you say you pray That into every loss Some life Some love will come Can you leave the ghost behind Breathe in the kindness That echoes to tomorrow Beneath the easy sorrow Tht's bleeding into shame It's feeling all like someone Gave more than is good Gave more than one should More and more I'm starting to believe


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harris K. Tellemacher

Have you seen the movie L.A. Story, in which Steve Martin plays Harris K. Tellemacher, a hapless weatherman who gets caught in a weird love-rhombus with Victoria Tennant, a (very) pre-Sex in the City Sarah Jessica Parker, and Richard E. Grant? Ring a bell?

There's a scene in which Harris' mood, Harris' desire (it would seem) is directly connected to the weather, and either causes a storm or is reflected in it. I'm going to go with "causes" for the purposes of this blog. One of the things I like about the movie is that it presents mysterious, even outright improbable to impossible events as fact... sort of a magical realism trick. A prescient talking illuminated traffic billboard, for instance.

Because the thing is... the mysterious happens all the time in life... unexplained coincidences... chance occurances... weird feelings... strange sensations... talking animals. Okay, I made that last one up.

But you know what I mean. Things happen that make you scratch your head... people know things that have no way of knowing... experiences (both good and bad) seem to suggest something outside of what we perceive, something inexplicable...

I, for instance, have a knack for blowing out streetlights with my presence. This has been going on for as long as I can remember. I walk by a streetlight, the bulb flickers and dies. Over and over and over it happens. I've also noticed that I have the tendency to write songs that predict the future.

As time passes and each new present helps crystalize a past... lyrics that were mysterious to me, words I wrote without a full understanding of why... words I was inordinantly attracted to... Well: they just make sense. They reveal a truth I wasn't fully aware of (if at all) at the time.

Since I've realized this, I've been paying closer attention to how I write and what I write. Sounds silly to put it that way. What I mean is that I've tried to become more aware of certain unexplained lyrics I'm attracted to and (1) not ignore them, and (2) try to use them to help me decode my own feelings. My feelings.

Which brings us back to the weather and Mr. Tellemacher. This summer, the big storms we've had in the Chicago area have coincided almost too perfectly with stormy personal events of mine. One of these storms caused flooding localized to my neighborhood and put two feet of water in my basement and about 1000 other basements in my immediate vicinity...

Tonight, after plodding through a day when work trials compounded with health issues and impending personal disturbances resulted in me leaving the office almost two hours after I intended... I walked into an atmosphere that clung to my skin, that felt ready to explode... and explode it did.

It all felt apocalyptic.

I made it home and stood in my backyard and watched my storm build and build... I watched the lightening strike inside my eyes... I heard the thunder echo in the spaces in my chest... I nervously watched the basement door for signs of flooding but none came...

I let the rain soak my hair and run off my face onto the ground as if it were my own tears given to the earth. The streetlight in the alley flared out. I climbed the stairs and a nervous dog met me at the door. 

The rain slowed but the lightening intensified and the thunder followed like an obedient child. I sat in my house looking out the window at the storm, which is supposed to continue through the night.

I wonder if it is my creation I wonder if my songs are the prescient talking illuminated traffic billboards of my life.

I wonder how much money I've cost the city in lightbulbs.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Disappear II

We washed away smiles and Quiet fingerprints of blue But in the dark we're holding on to All the things we'd rather lose Now you're not here It is clear That everyone dear Disappears


Monday, July 02, 2007


And we're left with a sunburned city A sky with islands of light Is it enough to say you believe in love But then give up the fight Now that you're here It rings so clear Everyone dear Disappears


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Just went:

Living Color
Arcade Fire

Right when I needed it most.



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ark (III)

The leaves of Sunday morning past Disappear like glass In flames of seasons changing fast And faster every year The moon red with hopeless bloog Half-blackened with the mud And ash stirred up by the flood The flood I prayed would last Til I could breathe again As days are swallowed by the wind Your eyes an ark to carry me to land So carry me to land The night is calling out your name As it covers up our shame Of how we simply walked away From the promises we made When you grow tired of the spring And weary of your wings Just remember how I'd sing sing Sing you into sleep Til you could breathe again As days are swallowed by the wind My voice an ark to carry you to land To carry you to land The rain falling on the earth Can't wash away the hurt Or show you what it's worth Once you say goodbye


Monday, June 04, 2007

Ark (II)

Rain falling on the earth Can't wash away the hurt Or show you what it's worth Once you say goodbye When you grow weary of the spring And tired of your wings Remember when I'd sing Sing you into sleep



The leaves of Sunday mornings past Disappear like glass In flames of seasons changing fast And faster every year The moon red with hopeless blood Half-blackened by the mud And ash stirred up by the flood We all prayed would last Until we could breathe again As days are swallowed by the wind Your eyes an ark to carry us to land So carry me to land


Monday, May 28, 2007


The leaves Of Sunday mornings past Disappear In flames Of seasons changing fast And faster every year And moons Red with hopeless blood Come on wings white with Ash Stirred up by the flood We all prayed would last Til love could breathe again A dove swallowed by the wind Your eyes an ark to carry it to land...


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Heads Up

Actually, keeping my head down... The weather's getting warm. The sunburn feels good. There's new rock n' roll pouring out of the speakers, there are new songs pouring out of the pores... 

News soon.



Monday, May 14, 2007


An emptiness abounds The growing summer light I'm sinking into sounds Of the city's rush to life Crystal dreams tend to break Crystal hearts can't be shaped I walked alone along the lake Until my tears had dried Forgetting all our sins As the blood is washed away Beneath we find new skin It comes back day by day Crystal dreams tend to break Crystal hearts can't be shaped I walked alone along the lake Until my tears had dried Crystal dreams tend to break Crystal hearts can't be shaped I walked alone along the lake Beneath the crystal stars we made And crystal nights and crystal days Are all that's left of what we gave Are all that's left, are all we saved And now my tears have dried


Monday, May 07, 2007

The Song I Never Wrote

This is the song I never wrote With words I never spoke About the last time I was there When I stepped into the air And when he's holding you I want you to know It's okay It's okay I'm sorry These are the things I couldn't say With chords I couldn't play How all our desparate days Stay with us as we fade away And when he's holding you I want you to know It's okay It's okay I'm sorry


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Release Me

So I'm trying something a little different with the Paper Arrows record... as of today I'm releasing the song Look Alive! as an email only single... if you want it emailed to you for free as an MP3 file, drop an email to

We're having a little release party tonight at my place... some wine, some music... it's small but fun. Things are... okay. And that's pretty good.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

How the Heart Moves On

Slowly With hesitation Slipping away Trying In silent spaces What can be saved? And while we're sleeping Something is leaving Someone is breathing In and out and in and out Sinking Into the hollow That swallows us here in the dark Fighting With desparation To hold on, hold on to the spark And while we're sleeping Something is leaving Someone is breathing In and out and in and out


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Down Down Down (Redux)

Chewed up the sky, spit out the stars Never told anyone I was scared of the dark All of my love just fades away I lose a piece of myself almost every day I can see your face Hanging 'round this place Hanging like a weight Pulling me down down down I'll run with the river in dreams of gold I'll fly with wings been bought and sold To touch the birds that sing your name In the ruby blue I'll do the same I can see your face Hanging 'round this place Hanging like a weight Pulling me down down down The last night that you were there I watched your eyes and smelled your hair And fixed your arm and dried your tears And touched your hand and counted years I can see your face Hanging 'round this place Hanging like a weight Pulling me down down down Pulling me down down down


Monday, April 16, 2007

Little Victories

Sometimes, it's easy to get overwhelmed (or even just -whelmed) by grand visions. Frustrated by the slow pace of progress. In knots about failures or perceived failures. Fed up with your inability to execute on your dreams. Paralyzed by the genius of your own ideas.

Okay, that last one never really happens to me. But still...

Most of the time it's better to break the world into small, manageable tasks and take pride in accomplishing them one at a time.

For instance: I fixed the venting system on my dryer this weekend. I know, I know... it's not selling a million copies of a record, or recording an album, fighting famine in Africa, or buying a car... but it did involve the following: 1. Identifying the problem: namely that a bird had built a nest in the old vent/tube, which was causing the dryer to vent into my house, not to the outside... which is not a good situation. 2. Plugging said venting hole to insure that in the absence of the tubing, the bird did not return and take up residence in my actual house. 3. Continuing to identify the problem: namely that once I scared the bird off, I realized the tubing for the vent was irreparably damaged and needed to be replaced. 4. Going to Home Depot and buying the correct part, namely an 8 foot flexible venting tube with clamps. 5. Moving the washer/dryer combo just enough so I could squeeze my not-so-small frame behind it for access to the back of the dryer. 6. Identifying that I need to remove a part (a metal tube) from the old flexible tube and attach it to the new tube, also flipping it around to fit properly. 7. Executing said replacement, fitting the clamps around both the dryer back and the wall vent. 8. Realizing in my maneuvers I had poked a small hole in the tubing, and fixing it with the greatest repair tool known to man... that's right, duct tape. 9. Turning on the dryer and smiling as the tube filled with exhaust and piped said exhaust to the outside. 10. Smiling even broader when I realized that I managed to spend $10 on a new part, rather than $150 on a service call to a Maytag technician.

So there you go... I did not get any notice on Sunday about receiving a gold or platinum record. I did not record or write a song. I did not buy a car. I did not adopt an African orphan (as far as I remember). But I did triumph over a small, inanimate object and bested an animal with a brain roughly the size of a mouse turd.

And some days, that's all you can ask for.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Last Night, 1:10 a.m.

Have you ever watched somebody try to shoulder your pain? Watched him try to shed your tears for you? Watched him try to bear your cross? Listened to him tell you he'd do anything for you? Felt his shoulders shake as you hug and hold on tight? Looked in his eyes and seen true friendship and true love? Wondered what you did to deserve this love?




Sunday, April 08, 2007


ALMOST GONE Wordsmeannothingtothesea Lovemeansnothingifyouleave Imfallingfastandsinkingslow Imleaninginandlettinggo It's almost gone The life we lived It's almost gone from here From here Climbthestairsandsingtowalls Anddreamoftapeandcottonballs Whileunderwinterpaintedskies Thenoisewaskeepingmealive It's almost gone The life we lived It's almost gone from here From here Maryroseupinthesalt Beneaththehighwayandthechalk Flowerslayaroundherfeet Fromallthepeoplewhobelieved It's almost gone The life we lived It's almost gone from here From here


Friday, April 06, 2007


I climbed the stairs and sang to walls And dreamt of tape and cotton balls (alcohol?) While under winter painted skies The noise was keeping me alive


Monday, April 02, 2007

Arrows of Paper

So I've posted some of the project I recorded over the winter on My Space for all to hear... Check the Paper Arrows page and (hopefully) enjoy...



Sunday, April 01, 2007

Briskman and Briskman

Another Sunday... Another Sunday. Yeah... Still recovering a bit from our day in the studio on Thursday... and what a day it was.

We went in with the goal of getting drums done on all 5 songs... we left with that as well as a lot of usable bass and guitar. Our day began at about 10:00 am as Barret and I met Jay at I.V. Studios in Uptown... "I.V." stands for "In Vault" as the studio is in an old bank and the live room and control room are actually down in the old vault. It's pretty damn cool.

Barret began setting his drums up while Jay and I got coffee and breakfast. Once Barret was set up, Jay and our engineer George began putting microphones around the drums and room. Jeff arrived. Jeff and I went for beer. Jay, George and Barret worked through various microphone and drum configurations and by about 2:00, we were ready to actually record.

Jeff sat in the live room with Barret, I was relegated to a vocal isolation booth behind glass sliding doors. We dug in and started with the song Dark Before the Dawn. And Barret and Jeff both nailed it on the second take, with me getting a pretty good guitar take as well. Next came the poppy You Were... which we got it about 3 takes.

Aoife arrived to check in on the proceedings. After changing the drum and guitar configuration, we attacked the first rocker of the day, Bright Dark Times. Although it took us a couple more takes than the first two tunes, we still got a really strong version in fairly quick order. Satisfied with our progress, we took a dinner break and reconvened after pizza to attack Canary, the oldest song of the bunch. 

Again, within 3 runs we had a good take, and suddenly we had just one song to go. The final song was St. Scarlet, another rocker. We nailed a strong take on our first run, btu we decided to do one more just to try a couple of different things... and that second take had some outright magic in it... Barret especially took a couple of chances and the outcome was striking.

At this point, although tired, we decided to make use of some of the incredible equipment that littered the studio, and go after some guitar. Jay and I work incredibly well together, and within an hour we had reimagined St. Scarlet with soaring guitars... almost all my parts were recorded on the first take and a bunch of them we just came up with on the fly... very cool stuff.

So this week, I will attack more guitars with Jay, and then we should be in a position fairly quickly to do violin, vocals, and for Jeff to finish the bass parts. There is something so amazing about working in the studio, and I'm fairly confident that this project is going to quickly turn into something special... it already feels that way.

More soon...


Thursday, March 29, 2007


Yeah... I'm sitting in the lounge at I.V. Lab Studios in Uptown. Drums are being set up. Things are being accomplished. New noise from BRB is about to pour forth in glorious fashion.

Stay tuned...


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


And words mean nothing to the sea And love means nothing if you leave


Monday, March 26, 2007

Skyscraper Hearts (Final)

Your eyes They fall Upon the ground Your tears They crawl Upon my cheek We rise At night To breathe the starlight We rise At night As big as the sky Time is never there Time is never fair We dream Of empty rooms And moving trucks We wake To find That it's all gone They beat In cages Filled with silence They beat These skyscraper hearts Of ours Time is never there Time is never fair The light It comes When we are falling into dust The light It shines From where the buildings reach into the sea of Love It tries To drown us in our waking lives And in our hearts we're running out of Time is never there Time is never fair


Spring Ruminations

Monday, Monday, Monday... Yesterday, I ran the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K (approx. 5 miles) race held in downtown Chicago. It was fun. Crowded, by fun. Beautiful weather, good friends, and a decent performance... it is a mark of how far I've come as a runner that I was able to run 5 miles with little training... at this time last year, I'd never run more than 4 miles. Ever.

So now I am continuing to deepen my commitment to running the Chicago Marathon in October... next step: actually registering.

This upcoming week sees Burn Rome Burn in the studio all day Thursday to record the basic tracks for what will become our next CD... an EP we hope to have done in fairly short order. The tunes are strong and the band is really digging in the arrangements... I can't wait to see how the recording turns out. 

We'll be working with Jay, and I'm looking forward to that as well... after what we accomplished earlier this year. Other than that... the usual. Whatever that is or has become... I'm writing a lot... no idea what the material is for or what it will become... just trying to continue to churn out songs that are direct and honest while still being interesting.

I actually wrote a song the other day (a rough draft of which is posted below) that made me stop and put my guitar down... it felt that big, that close... it's called Skyscraper Hearts and I'll post the final version of the lyrics when they're done. It's simple but soaring, it's poetic but direct...

I hope I can do the bones of the song justice when I attempt to record it. If I attempt to record it. Because there's something there, something that feels like it could be a watershed moment... a spark buried in the mud, in the ashes... a light in the night...




Friday, March 23, 2007

Skyscraper Hearts

Your eyes They fall Upon the ground Your tears They fall Upon my face We rise At night To breathe the starlight We rise At night As big as the sky Time is never there Time is never fair We dream Of empty closets And moving trucks We wake To find That it's all gone They beat In cages Filled with silence They beat These skyscraper hearts (of ours) Time is never there Time is never fair


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Silence That Remains

She said Come West Cause where I am you should be And all of this change Is just too much for me And the bigger that the heart is The harder that it breaks And I can't stand the silence The silence that remains I thought Come East Cause I'm frozen in the winter light And maybe you can save me From my place here in the ice And when I think of her I think of buildings and planes And water in the streets And the silence that remains


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Holy Crap

It's nice outside. I know (according to it's not supposed to last for the entire week but... We'll take what we can get.

Nothing like 70 and sunny to lift your spirits. Nothing like a 5 mile jog outside Sunday to remind you why you love running and can't wait to start training for the full marathon. Nothing like making it to yoga classes on Monday night and Tuesday morning to make you feel at peace and maybe even slightly flexible. Nothing like throwing the frisbie for the dog at the park on a beautiful day to fill you with joy. Nothing like the specter of another 5 mile jog in the 70 degree sun to make you smile. Or grimace. But in a good way. Nothing like a cat curled up in a box in the sun to make you feel lazy. 

Nothing like music to always be there to light the way.


Friday, March 09, 2007


He believed in Ghosts And Faith And Love And all the Words He couldn't see He was in need Of something new Of someone new Of someone who Would take him in And hold him tight But it wasn't right To leave her there To leave her where She fell And where she sacrificed Her name And her shame In the dust And in the growing dusk He took a breath And opened his eyes And when she said "We will be okay" What she meant was "I have to go away" "I have to go away" "I have to go away"


Thursday, March 08, 2007


He woke up Took a breath And opened his eyes It was no surprise They were blue After all His favorite color What he'd give for another Day and night Dark and light A chance to make mistakes again To fail again To fail But still A chance To overcome To overcome And when she said "We will be okay" What she meant was "I have to go away"


Sunday, March 04, 2007


I'm growing out my nails. I'm letting dead cells pile up on the ends of my fingers and then I'm going to trim the five on my left hand short and clean, but leave the five on my right hand long and use them to play the guitar. They will be little weapons of creativity, little calcified arrows, and I will wield them judiciously. In this way, I'll be able to take small dead parts of me and make beautiful music out of them. Kind of like I did on this record I just finished a week ago.

To start at the beginning (where else would we start?): Back in the summer, I started assessing all the songs I had laying around that hadn't been recorded by BRB and we weren't playing live. Some were as old at 2004-05. I noticed that they seemed to intersect, both musically and lyrically. They were mostly quiet, mostly acoustic, and mostly simple and direct. I thought they might make a nice collection if I recorded them acoustically, kind of a "warts and all" live approach.

I got in touch with Jay Marino, whom I knew through his band Buddy Nuisance. We shared a manager at the time and had played a bunch of shows with them, getting along quite well personally and musically. I knew Jay was a producer and engineer, and I approached him initially about recording BRB's planned follow-up project to Bottle Boy, as well as helping me record this collection of acoustic tunes I had on the side.

The first thing we did was get together in my living room, set up a few microphones, and record about 12 songs with just acoustic guitar and vocals. After listening to the group of songs, we cut away 6 and I went back and wrote 6 more tunes really quickly, in about 3 weeks or so, to bring our total to 12.

Again, I sat in a quiet room (an attic studio space off of I-90/94) and played the 12 songs for Jay and his iBook. I had initially envisioned the recording being about 90 percent acoustic, but Jay persuaded me to let him shape the tunes a little bit more, to bring in a musician or two to play different instruments, and to alter/revise some of the songs to fit a larger approach. When it became apparent that BRB wouldn't be recording until 2007, Jay and I decided to focus on these demoed tunes for a few months and see what happened.

We began in earnest by talking through each tune and throwing out production and arrangement ideas to be considered... we tried to shape each song in a unique way while still keeping it connected to the group as a whole. We got rid of 2 tunes completely and decided to focus on 10.

In this group were 5 songs from pre-summer 2006, and 5 tunes from post-summer 2006. At this point, I made a conscious effort to defer to Jay on all questions of production and performance. Not to eliminate myself from giving input and ideas, but to let him produce me and the songs. To trust him to bring out the ideas in the music in an artful way.

This required a leap of faith... immediately we differed on which songs we would eliminate... I wanted to get rid of a song called Skeletonskinandsky, a song that I had written and rewritten 3 times and was still not happy with. Jay was adamant that this song be included, and I somewhat reluctantly deferred, cutting a song called Feels Like Giving Up.

Once we had the 10 songs, we set about sketching them out in Jay's computer using Pro-Tools, the recording software most prevalent in the music business. We settled on splitting the songs into 2 groups: 6 that we would attack with some sort of expanded production and instrumentation, and 4 we would keep simple and acoustic. I recorded acoustic versions of the 6 candidates for expanded production, playing along with a click track.

Jay sped up the tempos of a few tunes, and we rearranged a couple of them as well, adding a chorus here, lengthening an outro there, and shortening an intro on another song. At this point, I went away from the project for a few weeks. Jay continued to work, bringing in Darren (drummer from Buddy Nuisance) to record some drum parts.

Additionally, Jay himself put down bass parts on the 6 tunes with drums. Hearing these first rough cuts of the rhythm section was inspiring. The songs, many of which began in the silences of quiet Sundays, sounded energetic and edgy. Some had already been morphed beyond recognition. Jay and Darren had added some synth parts to a few tunes, and Jay had created keyboard pads to fill out the sound on others.

One of our stated goals during this process was to keep the guitar out of my hands as much as possible. That may sound like a strange thing to do, but we figured we would try to fill out the sound with other instruments... pianos, keyboards, mandolins, banjos... and if we needed guitar, we tried to use the acoustic as much as possible. And, going even further, when I did play the electric guitar, I used primarily Jay's electric guitars, which have a sound totally different from my standard electric guitars that I play with BRB.

With their skeletons in place, we began attacking each song one by one. I added acoustic guitars to a couple songs, and even began cutting some vocals at a very early stage. Darren came back and added more drums, some Fender Rhodes (electric keyboard), some (I kid you not) glockenspiel, axillary percussion, and even an instrument called an ocean harp. Jay added mandolin to a few songs.

Jay, Darren, and I sat in a room together with a few microphones and cut a version of a tune called Why I Had to Fall, with Jay on mandolin, Darren on banjo, and me on acoustic guitar. I sang lead, Jay and Darren sang backgrounds. We nailed it on the fifth take, live, all the way through, and the result sounded almost like something The Band would have done.

We did most of the tracking in an attic that overlooks I-90/94, and you can hear the highway in the background on the more intimate tracks, creating an organic noise pad, injecting the sounds of the city into the recording. Jay and Darren spent a few hours at Gravity Studios recording acoustic piano for the 6 band tunes.

On one, December Static, Darren's piano playing was so beautiful it replaced the guitar part completely. I set out in earnest to cut the lead vocals. The trust Jay and I had built up paid off most heavily during these lead vocal sessions. Whereas in the past, I've been a very slow worker while recording vocals, I allowed Jay to be the sole arbiter of my performances, and the result was getting the majority of the vocals quickly. Like in under 20 minutes for some songs. Like in under 3 takes for some songs. Which is unheard of for me. Some of the results sounded a bit rough, but I trusted Jay's ears.

The biggest lesson I took from these sessions was that I need someone I trust to produce my vocals... I listen to myself in the wrong way, for the wrong things... so I need someone to listen for me in the right ways and tell me when I have something special.

Similarly, the background vocals were cut swiftly. Jay and I would huddle in the control room with our guitars, writing parts, and then I would run into the live room to record the parts before I forgot them, many of them on the first take.

More guitars were added, with Jay playing a mean slide part on Travesty in Blue. I recorded a song called Fight as an homage to Jeff Buckley, with reverb-drenched guitar amps isolated in the utility room of the attic, and me, by myself, with my '63 Gibson hollow-body, singing and playing the song from start to finish. I got it on take 5, all the way through. 

More vocals were added, lead and background. Suddenly, it was February, and we were almost done. Jay locked in two days at Gravity Studios for mixing, and we hustled to finish the remaining vocals, guitars, and acoustic tracks. The most difficult song to sing, the aforementioned Skeletonskinandsky, turned into a beast. For all my reservations about it, it wound up being one of the strongest songs of the group, and the vocals we pulled out of me one Tuesday night in the attic are the best, most powerful singing I've done to date.

Finally, it came down to two Thursdays ago. We had backgrounds on one song (Turn) to do, and two acoustic songs to cut in their entirety. And we were mixing the following Monday and Tuesday. We added Motown-inspired backgrounds to Turn, and then moved on to Again and Again, a quiet fingerpicking song I'd written in August.

I sat alone in the live room with two mics, one for vocals, one for guitar. I played the song through once and looked to Jay for feedback. He shrugged as if to say "You got it." So I left it, one time, one take, no edits. If you listen closely, you can hear a train go by, faintly, in the background during the second verse, like a ghost. So it came to the final song, which was slated to be an older song called Resurrection.

Instead, I decided to save Resurrection for the next project, and record a short acoustic tune I'd written in November called When You Left. Again, I played the song through once, and as we listened to the playback, we realized we were done tracking.

Monday came and a new player, Manny Sanchez entered the picture. Manny owns I.V. Labs, a studio in Uptown, and has worked with Jay on a bunch of projects. He's also worked with Billy Corgan and a host of other musicians. Manny set his ears to mixing what Jay, Darren and I had created and the results were... amazing. To hear these songs go from acoustic demos to fully fleshed-out rockers and ambient modern folk tunes... Manny played the studio like an instrument, coaxing new textures out of the tunes, smoothing out some rough edges while enhancing others.

Tuesday night came, and Manny had mixed 7 of the tunes. Jay took over and mixed the final three, all of which were acoustic. We bounced the final mixes through an old half-inch tape machine to simulate vintage tape compression. And we were done.

After listening to the final mixes for a day, both Jay and I decided that the mixes were good, and we proceeded to have it mastered at Gravity that Thursday. On Friday, 8 days after finishing tracking, I picked up the mixed and mastered product. I listened to it for a week, but haven't since last weekend. I've given it to a few close friends and family. Their reactions have been strong and positive.

I want to listen to it again, but something about it is a little too raw, a little too close... so I need to get some distance from it. Let it sink in. So I'm going to bide my time, let my fingernails grow out a bit, and look forward to the big things in the near future, both planned and surprise.

Grow, fingernails, grow.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Time Marches On

Is it the end of February already? What? Not that I'm complaining about getting out of my least favorite month in one (or at most two) piece(s), but... it seems like it was just New Year's Eve. Oh. Boy.

The last week has been a blur within a blur. Or something like that. Incredibly, I went from finishing background vocals on a couple of songs with Jay and recording two acoustic songs in their entirety two Thursdays ago, to picking up the completed, mixed, and mastered project last Friday... so a total of one week from the end of tracking to the completed CD.

Given my previous experience with the final steps of recording, this timeline is nothing short of inconceivable. (I do not think you know what that word means...) I'm attempting to get some emotional and artistic distance from what turned into more of a wrecking-ball than a record (say it out loud... like reading Finnegan's Wake, only without the literary genius).

I'm very very excited about starting a new BRB recording so soon and trying to use a lot of the things I discovered in this recording process... can't wait.

So to March. Bitches.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Humpin' Towards Deerfield

(That sound? Yeats turning over in his grave.) It's Hump Day. Which isn't even 10% as salacious as its nickname implies. At least not around here in the mid-evening quiet.

Yesterday was just warm enough for me to don some shorts and go for a five mile jog outside... my first jog outside since New Year's Day. After nearly two months of hammering away on the treadmill, running my familiar northside route was a dream even if my legs and lungs were barely up to the task. And now the week falls away with some uncertainty.

I've got a CD of the songs I did with Jay in their final form... all I need to do is approve the mixes and we'll be ready to master (the final step of audio post-production). That's all I'll say about them for now... I've got a big, big entry (so to speak) about these recordings planned but I want to hold off on it to get some perspective on the whole project which has been truly watershed for me as a person and a musician... Although I guess pretty much every recording project I've ever been involved in has been watershed at the time. And I hope it never, ever stops feeling that way.

My emotions regarding the new recordings are conflicted... I'm nervous about what to do with this project and I'm excited about starting the BRB recording so soon, with all the lessons I've learned so fresh in my mind. But I'm also wary of experiencing an emotional letdown similar to the one I went through after Bottle Boy came out... starting a BRB recording immediately should help with that, as will the fact that the whole recording process was so different from anything I've gone through and happened so quickly.

Still... recording and creating and starting and finishing... it's all a beast... A rough beast at best. (Sorry, John Butler)

Sunday, February 18, 2007


It's Sunday. The bright winter sun is making the snow on my front deck sparkle and the blue sky implies warmth I know is not there. I started watching Meet the Press but Tony Snow's aggressive campaigning for Douchebag of the Year compelled me to switch to The Empire Strikes Back. I like fake villians much more than real ones.

I spent the last 3 weeks collecting hangovers. I spent the weekend collecting sleep. Princess Leia: "I love you." Han Solo: "I know." Burn Rome Burn keeps stacking songs we'd like to record when we get started next month with Jay of Buddy Nuisance... looks like we'll have 9 tunes ready with the goal of getting 3 or 4 out of the sessions, which will begin at I.V. Labs, continue in Jay's attic space, and finish at Gravity Studios under the ear of Manny Sanchez.

Luke Skywalker is down a hand but up a father.

The group of songs I have been working on with Jay since late last year is almost done... they will be mixed tomorrow and Tuesday and came together faster and better than I could have ever imagined. Irvin Kershner is the shit. My cat is exploiting a patch of sun on the desk next to me. I've switched to music... Disc 2 of Wilco's Being There... I guess I'm trying to fold mountains over and find sunken treasure...

Here's a short list of things that have been inspiring me lately: Everything is Illuminated 29 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Neon Bible Intelligensia Coffee Spring

And you. That's right, you.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The summer slipped away And with it, our perfect days The nights are getting long I wish I wasn't too strong To walk away Waiting for a change But every week unfolds the same way Another Sunday night I'm left Left alone, holding my breath I have to walk away To walk away I have seen the light break And I have called your name Tried to find a flame Cried The winter's coming soon The stars outshine the moon And no matter what you say I just can't, just can't, just can't walk away I have seen the light break And I have called your name Tried to find a flame Cried Cried Cried


Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The week is off to a slow start... Fatigue and illness hit yesterday and today is already marred by a snowstorm... which doesn't make me want go outside. At all.

But alas... some things have to get done and they just can't wait so... I guess I'll bundle up, put my head down, and steer into the wind. February... lousy Chicago February.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Come Undone

Do you believe that the darkness fades away? And every night returns to day? Are you going to blink and come across? Carving a new love out of loss Don't let it go Don't be the one I've opened up I've come undone And in your dreams are you still the one in white? Do you hear the refrain of "Hold on Tight?" When you wake do you see my crystal tears? Should love be enough to burn our fears? Don't let it go Don't be the one I've opened up I've come undone I found myself in the sky and falling fast Thinking every mile would be the last But the sun has a way of pulling back And melting these feathers made of wax Don't let it go Don't be the one I've opened up I've come undone I've opened up I've come undone


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Viva Reno

Last Friday morning, my alarm went off at 5:00 am. Groggy from my 1:00 bedtime, I grumbled and stumbled to the shower for a brief cleansing and then collected my things and headed for the door. You see, I had an 8:00 flight out of O'Hare to the biggest little city in our fair county, AKA Reno, Nevada. 

The occasion? Best friend Ben's 30th B-day and a surprise party on Friday night. Oh. And the Super Bowl or as we came to call it, the Bears' Game. So I braved the A.M. chill and found myself on my way to... Salt Lake City? Damn you (shaking fist), lack of inexpensive direct flights to Reno! After eating a "bagel" as I killed an hour in the Salt Lake City airport while trying to avoid Mormon missionaries, I flew the final hour on to Reno where Ben's sister, Kelley, greeted me at the airport.

The party didn't start until 7:00 and it was noon local time so... we did what you do when you're in Reno and have time to kill: gambled and drank beer. After losing a bit of money (also what you do in Reno) we cleaned up and headed to the party, which was being held at a shooting club near Ben and April's house.

Ben walked in at 7:00 sharp and was shocked by the 40-some guests, and especially by our presence. Much fun was had, much pizza eaten, much beer consumed, and I got to meet and hold Ben and April's twin babies (Austin and Aspen) for the first time. After the party, we went back to the hotel/casino and resumed our video poker marathon... Kelley and I are a deadly pair in that we can both sit at the bar and play video poker and drink "free" beer for hours on end... and Friday night was no exception.

Saturday came and we lurched downstairs to grab breakfast and... drink bloody marys while playing video poker. At this stage, I was down some cash, but not too much. The standard for video poker is that you go up and down and up and down and wind up down but having had a lot of fun and a lot of drinks. Kind of like most of life in general.

After losing more money, we decided to do something healthy, namely hitting the gym/fitness room. Although my workout was a bit weak (owing possibly to the altitude, probably to the video poker marathon and attendant drinking), it felt good to sweat and I augmented my usual physical activity with a trip to the steam room... where a man interrupted my relaxation by practicing Bikram Yoga in the nude.

To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

After cleaning up, we headed out to Ben and April's house to hang out, play with the kids, and go out to a nice dinner. Following dinner we watched ESPN Classic's football marathon about the '85 Bears and then Kelley and I returned to the hotel. I was fading and exhausted, but Kelley convinced me (with little difficulty) to hang around for a little (say it together now) video poker and a beer.

Imagine my surprise when, within 20 minutes of sitting down, I hit a Royal Flush and won... $1000.00.

I am not making this up.

I was stunned. Kelley was stunned. A man appeared out of thin air and counted off $1000.00 in $100 bills into my hand. I was still stunned. We celebrated by ordering shrimp cocktail and a Reuben from room service and bedtime was approximately 3:30 a.m. local time. I woke up and checked my wallet to make sure it wasn't a dream. And it wasn't.

So... we went downstairs and played a little more video poker before getting our act together and heading out towards Ben's for... the Bears' game. On the way, we picked up In-N-Out Burgers and Deschutes Beer. Yes, you should be jealous.

The anticipation for the game was almost un-BEAR-able (ha!) and as Devin Hester returned the opening kick for a touchdown, we veritably exploded with glee. Too bad that was basically the only highlight of the game... with the exception of Prince's sick halftime performance. As the clock wound down, we pouted. We were sullen. We were depressed. We noted that pitchers and catchers report in 10 days.

Kelley and I returned to the hotel and... I'm not even going to write what we did, because you know. Hint: it rhymes with Pideo Voker. I hit the hay having managed to not lose most of my huge jackpot from the previous night.

Again, the wake up call was a ridiculous 5:00 a.m. and the following 11 or so hours until I reached my door in Chicago included a blurry cab ride, a painful 4 hour flight to Atlanta (at least there were no Mormons there), a nearly 2 hour lay-over, a 2 hour flight to Chicago, and a brutally cold trip from O'Hare to home via train and bus. Whew.

I got home to a couple of frantically happy pets and a bed that has rarely felt more comfortable. All in all, quite a weekend full of video poker, beer, football, more video poker, bearing witness to random acts of naked Bikram Yoga, holding adorable babies, still more video poker, football, petting pugs, and, last but not least, still more video poker.

Also, people whom I love dearly and with all my heart and cannot possibly thank enough for the trip, the party, the laughs, the tears, and the fun.

And I am, most surely of all, not making that up.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Time to Shine

Where have I been? Well, I've been right here in Chicago, duking it out with the mid-winter weather and attending to all sorts of things... from playing Metro with BRB, to rehearsing with BRB, to preparing to record our new set of songs in the coming months, to getting things wrapped up with the "solo" material I've been working on with Jay and Darren, to attending yoga classes, to entertaining out of town guests, to writing... Yeah, there's been a lot of stuff going on.

Unfortunately, I've also been confronting a tragedy of the highest magnitude. 

Jeff Morrow, a former co-worker of mine at Village Music Store and friend of/contributor to Burn Rome Burn, passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 30.

Jeff worked at Village Music Store for, I believe, almost 8 years as a Sales Assistant, Assistant Manager, and Teacher. He left VMS a little over a year ago and fell off the face of the earth. Wouldn't answer his phone or return messages. I hadn't heard a word about him until we got a call from our "wo-manager" at VMS and the news that he had died on Monday, January 15, of complications relating to pneumonia.

We were shocked, although part of me always worried that something like this would happen to Jeff. 

As bright and funny a guy as he was, he always struck me as the kind of person who was wrestling with demons. Not that we all aren't, but... his seemed to overwhelm him at times. Jeff absolutely loved music. He was a human jukebox who could play almost any tune on the guitar. It was common for you to be discussing a song with him, and then hear him learning it later on that day, sitting at the front desk at VMS.

He loved Led Zeppelin, Jeff Buckley, The Magnolia Electric Company, Hendrix, Elliot Smith, Rufus Wainwright... the list goes on and on. When he was on his game, VMS actually functioned at a fairly efficient level. And the store suffered when he suffered. And it hasn't been the same since he left. He was always good for a laugh or a dirty joke. He helped me out at our bigger shows by tuning my guitars backstage and running them to me on-stage. He loved being backstage and seeing how things worked and I always appreciated his help. He was always bringing people to our shows and really helped spread the word about the band.

My favorite memories of Jeff are hanging out at the store, just laughing and laughing over all the absurd things that happen there on a weekly basis. When you asked Jeff to do something, he did it. You could count on him to get your schedule the way you wanted it with very little trouble.

When the store's phone would ring, Jeff's standard line was a sarcastic "Now's my time to shine," which was almost always accompanied by him rubbing his hands together in mock anticipation of dealing with some incoherent parent or difficult customer.

So the Friday following his passing, I got off of work early and headed up to Aoife and Barret's. Barret was out of town on a gig, so Aoife, Doc, and I all went to the wake and funeral, which were being held up in the Portage Park neighborhood on the northwest side of the city.

All day I had been trying to prepare myself for the funeral but... nothing can get you ready for the experience of seeing a friend in a casket. Nothing. I realized that this was the 5th funeral I've gone to for someone my own age, dating back to junior high school. And all of them have been open-casket. 

The scene at the wake was one of absolute devastation. I met Jeff's mother, father, and brother, and although I didn't know them, they all hugged me and the wave of pain, of loss, of gratitude for our presence, washed over me. Aoife and I went up to the casket and each said our private prayers, I suppose.

Next to the casket stood all of Jeff's guitars, the very ones he would play at VMS. Nearby was a table of pictures, of memories... of Jeff playing his guitar with his father, of Jeff at his brother's wedding. Another VMS teacher, Mike, showed up for the funeral. We all sat in silent tears as a local minister delivered the eulogy. "In My Life" was the closing song.

Afterwards, we spent a little more time talking to his family. His father, in particular, was effusive and he broke down in tears as he asked us if one of us would write a song in Jeff's memory. What do you say to that? Other than "yes." That night, I slept for 12 hours. Which I never do. And felt like I could have slept for 16.

Since the funeral, I've given a lot of thought to Jeff and his passing. Our band rehearsals have been dominated by discussions of Jeff, the funeral, and the attendant sorrow. One of the things the minister talked about in his eulogy was the tendency to feel guilty when somebody in your life dies, especially somebody young and/or troubled. To feel like you could have done more to help that person. To feel a certain sense of responsibility.

And the minister, quite correctly, said that while this is natural, it's not beneficial. To you. Or to the person who is gone. Really, the best way to celebrate somebody's life is to learn from their passing. And to take that lesson and apply it to the living. To your friends, to your family, to yourself...

So none of us saved Jeff from his fate. But could we possibly save someone else in our lives, someone else who has demons, someone else who is on the verge of breaking down? And even if we can't, shouldn't we treat every day, every night, every personal interaction like it could be our last? Shouldn't we value it that highly?

Because... as my dad has said: you never know when somebody you love could walk out of you life and never come back. On the way out of the funeral, I stopped to hug Jeff's mother one last time. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and grasped my hands as if they were the only thing keeping her upright. She said she thought the eulogy was beautiful, and she was especially struck by the minister's talk about looking forward, about celebrating Jeff's life, and about getting past the guilt of his passing.

I, paraphrasing (among others) Kanye West, said "We have to turn tragedy to triumph." She looked at me through her tears and without saying a word hugged me like a mother hugs a son.

So... To Jeff Morrow: Wherever you are, know that someone loves you and someone misses you. And someone will always remember you. And the world is a worse place without you. And the world has less beautiful music in it without you. And now, right now, is your time to shine. And I'll do my best to take a little bit of your light and use it to brighten the world, just like you used to.


Friday, January 12, 2007


The Arcade Fire is Illuminated... This much is clear. This Saturday, Metro, 9:00 pm. More news to follow, more stories to tell.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sock it to me

What is it about the New Year that makes it the cradle of expectant change? Actually, that's a stupid question with an obvious answer.

Still... I did feel unusually strong on the treadmill at the gym today after spending the last week of 2006 feeling run down and out of sorts... I guess I took this past weekend mostly off from working out (save a cold but fruitful 4 miles outdoors before the New Year hit its first post meridian) which might account for some of this perceived strength, but there was something a little bit more in my treadmill-regulated 5 mile rumble, an assertiveness in my approach that seemed new and unfamiliar... a certain level of control absent from my runs even at the top of my half-marathon training in September.

Boys and girls, that's the word of the year for 2007: Control. C-O-N-T-R-O-L. You heard it here first. Not "truthiness" or "wikiality" or even "Megamerican." No.

Control is the name of the game. (Is there a board game called Control? There should be. Somebody get on that.) Control, the more I think about it, is at the root of soooo many of life's twists and turns. At least, it's at the root of mine.

I've been hesitant to commit in detail to the blogosphere the things that have been going on in my life for the last 6 months or so explicitly, and really, for most of 2006. Mostly because... well, for all I like to write and sing things in public, I tend to be a very private person when it comes to feelings and personal behavior and tend to be purposefully vague when talking about the particulars of my emotional life. Right. Says the guy with the blog.

I tend to write lyrics, post them, and hope that people I know and love can connect the dots, and maybe a few people I don't know come along for the ride too... Anyway, I think I'm inching closer to being able to write about 2006 in detail, in prose... Life is, as I'm fond of quoting to impress people at parties, lived forwards and understood backwards.

So there's good chance 2007 will be about finally starting to really understand 2006, and I do believe this space will come in handy for that process. We'll see... This I do understand: There are things one can control, and there are things one can't. And it's way better to focus on the good things one can control. Difficult at times, because sometimes those good things one can control dwindle to a precious few, but... there's always something.

Regardless of how dark it is, how hopeless things seem, how senseless other people's behavior gets, there is always something you can take ownership of to create light, and love, and hope, and a flame, and let the world know that you're sick of taking shit, sick of feeling like the universe is ending, sick of being treated like dirt, sick of being taken advantage of... Control is like a box of chocolates...

No, that was life that was the box of chocolates. Maybe control is one of the chocolates in the box of life? Um... that didn't sound quite right, did it? Scratch that last line of thought. Control is like... well, it seems like you walk a delicate balance with it... let's leave it at that for now.

I have so many other thoughts, so many other pertinent ideas about it but... Let's just take it one day, one entry at a time. In all seriousness (I hate when people say that), here's to a New Year full of control (the good kind) and understanding.

And maybe a dirty word or two for good measure.

xo j