Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why I'm Not "On Tour"

Before reading this post, you MUST read the recent, short article by Doug Glanville of the New York Times. Otherwise, this post will be coming out of FAR left field... Click on the link below to view the article, then read my post. Please leave a comment if anything in either article gets your wheels turning.

That's an on-point article! While I am only a legend in my own mind (a true minor leaguer), I have tasted what he's talking about while on tour. I learned a WHOLE LOT about how your placement, or image, or status, can dictate how (and how many) people treat you. I can't tell you how many times I have been completely invisible to a female (or male) until AFTER I get off stage, even when I'm not the headliner or a main part of the show. It feels like there is some weird transitive property of fame and status.

I've also watched colleagues use that status to get virtually anything and everything for free while on the road, including meals, drugs, sex, lodging, attention, etc. It didn't take me long to appreciate the path of destruction that is left in the wake. As more and more bridges get burned, and more and more friends are revealed to be just acquaintances, the person with the status pays the ultimate price... they are left empty.

It's feels good to be traveling, but to not be "on tour." In the last few weeks I've sat in a dozen different clubs, listened to a dozen different bands, and met dozens of people. The vast majority of them have no idea that I've performed in front of thousands of people, with some of their favorite artists. I would like to do some shows here before I leave, but I'm not in any rush. I find myself wondering which people, if any, will suddenly take an interest in me once I step off stage... and what their motivations will be.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying just listening to the band, and giving them their props after the show. I guess I'd rather be a groupie, than be groupied.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Week Number Dos


Our day started with a small planning meeting with the EIS Action Group. This is a group of concerned local folks (plus me and one other imported troublemaker) uniting to disseminate information regarding the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and the proposed military buildup on Guam. If you keep following this blog you will hear plenty more about the buildup and how I feel about it, but for now, I’ll just say this: Guam is an island with an estimated 180,000 people. The proposed military buildup will bring an estimated 80,000 people to the island, increasing the population by 40%. There is NO city, county or state on the U.S. mainland that could sustain, or would allow, this kind of increase under any circumstances. The difference is, Guam is not a state, but an unincorporated territory of the U.S. (much like a handbag, or a vacation property). They have no voting member in congress, and their local government answers to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

But, back to the meeting! After a few minutes of planning, Vicky got a phone call from her Auntie Hope (former local Senator and Miss Guam Universe!!!), with an opportunity to do an interview with international freelance journalist Akiko Fujita.

You may be familiar with Ms. Fujita from her regular reports filed on NPR’s The World,, or Voice of America, the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the U.S. Federal Government. For obvious reasons, we cut the meeting short and headed to the mayor’s office in the village of Agat to rendezvous with Auntie Hope and Ms. Fujita.

From there we headed to Mt. Lam Lam, which is technically the tallest mountain in the world (it's base lies at the bottom of the Marianas Trench!). More significantly, it is one of many Chimorru-Catholic heritage sites that will be commandeered if the military buildup occurs as planned. With Mt. Lam Lam in the background, Vicky told the world what was at stake for her and her people… very powerful stuff. It was particularly powerful to watch three women, each impressive in their own right, working at the forefront of the struggle to protect the land… after all, you’ve never heard it called Father Earth..

On Wednesday we hit three spots: The Venue, Ralphy’s, and then some cutty karoake spot where we did our best to imitate the bands we’d been watching all night. I guess they call it “courage juice” for a reason.


Two of Vicky’s friends from the States arrived, and after stopping by their hotel, we headed right back out for another round of drinks and live music at The Venue. One thing that I’ve been impressed with so far is the quality of the live music here on Guam. Eat your heart out Seattle, this island is pound-for-pound one of the live music capitals of the planet, as far as I’m concerned. Granted, most of the bands only play “covers,” but they do know how to pick the tunes.

Every night we go out, and every night I can expect to catch a good act—without paying a cover (more money for libations!!!). This time Plan B was playing, and playing well. I can’t give all the details on how the night ended, but I met some more good people and made some good connections, including a kid that plays on Guam’s national soccer team (are you thinking what I’m thinking?). Also, before I left, the keyboard player offered to bring her sax next time so that I could jump in her spot at the ebony and ivory… that should be fun.


The highlight of Friday night was our dinner at Proa, a nice fusion restaurant near the beach. While most folks tiptoed around menu, I broke down and ordered the whole Prix Fix… what better way to spend my money, right? Chorizo empanadas, tasty fresh salad, pan-seared salmon over a linguine with sun dried tomato cream sauce… and yes, pomegranate frozen yogurt! I tried to take a doggy bag home for the next day’s lunch, but we ended up killing it on the late night at Vicky’s friend’s house. Makes me want to bring back the word “scrumptious.”


I got my first trip to the village of Talofofo in the south of the island. What started off as a birthday celebration for Vicky’s friend evolved into a 4-hour roundtable conversation about politics, iPhones, and everything in between. The conversation was fueled by two cooler-sized batches of "Mojo", a potent dranky drank punch concoction—something like island brass monkey.


After almost sleeping in, we piled in the car for a tour of the beautiful southern side of the island. Guam is broken down into 19 villages, each with slightly different geography, demographics, and twists on the local culture. The northern end is more densely populated and developed, while the south is known for being… well… BEAUTIFUL.

I got to ride a caribao (water buffalo), and I had my first taste of puqua (betel nut). Check out these pics from in and around the village of Umatac.

After the south island tour we regrouped and got ready to celebrate the graduation of one of Vicky’s cousins. Like me, he took his sweet time with the whole undergrad degree thing, so the finish line was that much more satisfying. One of the highlights of the night was when a mad band of people under four feet tall stormed the dance floor for the cutest rendition of the Cha Cha Slide you have ever seen.

Maybe I should not have been surprised, but I damn sure was when the New Boyz came on and one older kid started Jerkin’ harder than any kid out of the Inland Empire. The only thing that wasn’t completely authentic is that his jeans weren't three sizes too small and his shoes weren't neon green.

This time around I was prepared for the ridiculous amounts of meat prepared ten different ways, as well as the free-flowing drinks, big family, and all around good time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Live From Tomorrow

Hello Family,

I've decided to name my online travel journal "Live From Tomorrow." I hope you find it fun and informative. It is NOT designed to make you jealous, but if you do feel that way, I'm only partially sorry. Here goes:

11:40am - Depart SFO
1:00pm - Arrive LAX

5pm - Met up with the old Street Elements family (David Bracken & Terry Smith) and hung out at Snoop Dogg's album release party at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal City. Those things are much more fun when you're not working.

9pm - Visited Asa at the studio in Silverlake. We played each other some of what we're both working on: what I would call "the good, the bad, and the commercial." Asa and I have been collaborating musically since the 6th grade talent show at St. Paul's, so I'm really proud to see him doing the damn thing. Over the years we've come to appreciate each others critical feedback because we genuinely like each others' work, but are not afraid to say, "You know, that kinda sucks, that part were you added the didgeridoo. I think it needs more cowbell instead."

11pm - Crashed at the Comfort Inn in Hawthorne, near LAX. I get a little discount because of my affiliation with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Plus all they had was a King Bed Suite with kitchen and jacuzzi, so I scored pretty big! I'm kinda famous for hating on L.A., and I refuse to spend more than 48 hours in a row there, so this was truly the perfect visit to the other California.

11:40am - Depart LAX
- Read Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" cover to cover, stopping only to use the bathroom or wolf down a pack of airline snacks. Probably the best fiction Thriller I've read since Caleb Carr's "The Alienist." Also, an interesting time to read that book, considering that Guam is what I would call, Catolica Da Gema (Catholic to the Yolk).

4:20pm - Arrive Tokyo Narita Airport
- Americans always assume that we are on the cutting edge of everything. One trip to the bathroom at Narita Airport shattered this illusion for me. A toilet with more buttons than a Comcast remote. Call me unadventurous, but I had to pass up the free enema. There's just no margin for error when you've got to catch a connecting flight, but maybe on the way back.

- Purchased my first ever Digital Book on my Kindle: George Carlin's "Last Words." What a smart, unique, and hilarious old man. Sometimes I find myself being deeply moved by every single book I read, whether its the Tao Te Ching, or a Safeway checkout aisle trash novel by Danielle Steele (don't tell Sammie I called it that!). But in this case, I am sure that Carlin's "sortabiography" is powerful, especially for anyone that has struggled, or will struggle with their art as a profession.

9:30pm - Depart Tokyo Narita Airport. Let's just say that Japanese planes are built for Japanese people, and I am not Japanese (or 5 foot anything).

2:00am - Arrived at Guam Hagatña Airport. I had a hard time convincing customs that I was not here to play music professionally, considering I was lugging my 100-pound keyboard with me, chock-full of stickers from various concerts and tours. Then I just showed them my bag of soccer cleats and explained that 3 months is a long time to be without anything you're passionate about.

3am - Had my first meal at Linda's - The official greasy spoon of the island. While downing a plate of fried rice, portuguese sausage, and undercooked fried eggs (that's how they like it), I discovered my new favorite condiment: Fennu Denne. It's a simple blend of soy sauce, lemon juice, onions and peppers. I put it on EVERYTHING now!

4am - Arrived at Vicky's family's house (Erlinda Montecalvo & Ray Leon Guerrero) in the "village" of Toto.

10am - Breakfast by Erlinda, and this time the fennu denne was homemade! I spent a few hours just hanging out and talking with Erlinda while Vicky headed to the University of Guam to teach her last day of classes. UOG is an open enrollment University, separate from the local Community College. Vicky is teaching 4 college creative writing classes, and even has her own office on campus: very cool, very intellectual, very Vicky!

6pm - Participated in my first on-island meeting with Guam's Coalition for Peace & Justice. We are currently working to educate the population about the pending military build-up and how it will affect the island. The U.S. Military recently released an 11,000 page Environmental Impact Statement, obviously designed more to drown any concerned citizen with paperwork, than to inform. The main challenge is to break down the document, challenge it's assumptions, and get the information out to the people on island. All the regular challenges abound: apathy, access to email, strong history of military entrenchment on the island, etc. It doesn't help that the military delayed the release of the document until the Xmas holiday, allowing only for 90 day comment period. I have been working with the group from the states for several years, so it was cool see some familiar faces at the meeting.

10pm - Hung out at Dreamin'k: a bar / tatoo parlor recently opened up by Vicky's older brother. He was off-island, so Vicky was filling in as the bartender. I met a bunch of good peoples, and got a crash course in Chimorru slang. I can now say "It's Nothing" in 5 languages, including Ethiopian, German, Chimorru, and Guido (see "fahgetaboutit").


1pm - Attended my first ever traditional Chimorru Catholic wedding (Vicky's friends from High School) at the Cathedral, presided over by the archbishop of the diocese. Typical catholic: beautiful building, boring service. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, call yourself a sinner, stand up, sit down, etc. But I do love Jesus, so I felt right at home and took communion for the first time in a few years.

3pm - Attended the Guam Music Festival where the Peace & Justice Coalition had a booth to do outreach education about the military buildup. The festival was headlined by Kymani Marley, but Ooklah the Moc definitely stole the show. I did a show with them a few years back in Hawaii, but we performed at the same time on different stages, so this was the first time I actually got to hear their music... very, very good... I'll be copping that album at some point!

10pm - Returned to the wedding reception, then hit the House of Brutus for live music. When the band started doing covers of Journey ("Don't Stop Believing") and Janet Jackson (without Janet Jackson), I decided that jet lag was a worthy excuse, so we called it a night.

2pm - Visited Vicky's Aunt's house in the village of Santa Rita, where we celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the village.

Within seconds of arriving at the "fiesta" barbeque, I came to the conclusion that the Chimorru people are kissing cousins of what we call "Regular Blacks" (as opposed to Africans in Africa, or those funny sounding dark people scattered throughout Europe and Scandinavia). Picture a whole lot of Earth Wind & Fire, Anita Baker, and Boyz II Men, and NOT a whole lot of vegetables. Plus I spotted a few Obama T-shirts! I also got my first taste of "tuba," or coconut moonshine... very sweet, deceptively dangerous.

8pm After the fiesta, we hit the Santa Fe Grille for some beachside reading by sunset, where I finished my first ever digital book. While I will never stop buying books (just like records), I do admit that there is a place for the Kindle in this strange new post-racial world (I like to call everything post-racial, now that Obama is president).

So, as you can see, I haven't done much since I've been here. It's pretty boring, I think I'll come home early...