I think my last post was from HawksView, the cabin in the woods. The album took two months to complete. It was an amazing experience and there were lots of extremes throughout the process, both good and bad. I’ve never been so stressed out, not being able to come up with lyrics or good songs. I’ve also never felt so good, 12 hour days flew by with hardly a break to go to the bathroom or eat. I have always been amazed when I hear someone say “I love my job”. I never liked a job, not even working for myself. I thought there was something wrong with me until I posted up in that cabin.
I had these grand visions of my album going viral and having this huge buzz. Being played on the radio. That vision was very far from reality and was heartbreaking to come to terms with. But from that experience I gained valuable lessons and adjusted my expectations. I also learned that being successful isn’t ONLY about loving what you do or being good at it, but also about putting LOTS of time and energy into it. I have a long way to go in all of those respects. I heard somewhere that success comes with 10,000 hours or 10 years invested in a pursuit. I started making music in 2004 and have about 2,000 songs and instrumentals that I’ve made, averaging out to about 5 hours/ song, which is roughly 10,000 hours. But that was only one aspect of being a musician. Now I am learning how to perform, be in a band, market/ promote, book gigs, etc.
So I came back to reality after the cabin with something to show for my effort, but no plan to move forward with my life. I worked some for my parents improving the property and logging firewood. I became pretty obsessed with primitive skills like hyde tanning, drum making, cordage with natural fibers, etc. That lead me to Primitive Pursuits; A local program that takes kids into the woods and teaches them primitive skills. I applied for a job with them and signed up for a “Wilderness Skills Instructor Class”. The class and people involved are amazing and I have learned so much. The woods is now a much more fun and exciting place to be, where I feel welcome and comfortable.
I decided that I had to have a dugout canoe, so I kept my eyes peeled and have ended up with a monster sycamore log that weighs about 4,000 pounds. I am doing a work trade with the guy I got it from. The log is in the yard, waiting for it’s transformation. I’ve been making wooden bowls and baskets and spoons and drums, but I have a feeling that the canoe project will be the work of all of those other woodworking projects times 100.
When i was in the cabin digging through my music catalog for songs/ song ideas for the album I came across 40 reggae songs and made up my mind that my next album would have a reggae theme. I got to thinking that it would sound way better to record real musicians playing the parts. Then I figured why not just start a reggae band!? The idea grew on me more and more until I had to post a craigslist ad looking for musicians. Two weeks later a 4 piece reggae band was together for their very first practice. We all clicked and played for 6 hours straight. It has been magical ever since. Now, 3 months after the ad was put up, we are playing our first gig!
Here’s our demo:
Other than a quick trip to Kaua’i to help family, there have been no travel adventures, though every time I have to deal with taxes or health insurance I begin formulated an escape plan to some far off corner of the world where “the man” can’t find me.
That’s all for now. I’ll try to keep the blog up to date with the canoe dig and what the reggae band’s up to…
A month in paradise
After 2 weeks in Hawai’i, 2 weeks sailing, and 2 weeks in Los Angeles I happily returned home to my wonderful family. I was content to be at home, well, forever. So for a month I reveled in the country life, and the sweet summer. I joined a band, deepened my relationships with friends and family, helped build buildings with my father and brother, picked apples, drove tractors, and of course, made music.
But something was calling me back to Hawai’i. Something always calls me back to Hawai’i. I began thinking about moving there and one day decided I really was going to. That day my friend living on Kaua’i sent me a message asking if I wanted to be flown out and paid a bunch of money to set up; a gym on Kaua’i. I didn’t hesitate and two weeks later I was on a plane bound for the islands.
I worked for 3 weeks and then spent a week on Molokai with my Hanai family. I met much more of the family and had a great time. I got to see much of the island. Some of the family took me out fishing at night. They had set long nets out in a specific pattern which corralled fish and at night 6 of us went out in a boat to collect the fish. I jumped in the chest high water, which was the perfect temperature and learned from them as we pulled fish from the net. There was a small black tipped shark in the net which we kept and some other nasty fish but one of the young guys with us wrestled them confidently and even beat on fish’s head against the side of the boat until it stopped moving. It had some gnarly teeth!
After a few hours we had collected all the nets and a large cooler full of fish. We turned the generator and lights off and just swam in the warm, still water under a bright moon and starry sky. How perfect.. until someone through the shark into the water with us! Fun Molokai style I guess.
I got to go hunting in the mountains which gave an incredible view of the coastal fish ponds, some of which were hundreds of years old, Lana’i, Maui, and Kaho’olawe. There were plenty of axis deer and black goats but we had limited time and didn’t really get out of the truck. We had a fish fry one night with all the fish we caught and I enjoyed it all. One dish was a grey goop which was pulverized, raw fish. It was seasoned and salty and good over rice.
The family was so wonderful, warm, and open and invited me back whenever I want. It was hard to leave, but in the time I was in Hawai’i the draw that brought me out diminished and I had one of my monthly midlife crises where I question everything I’m doing and feel like a failure. What did I want out of my life? What be the ultimate? Easy! I want to be a successful musician, or at least to be able to make music all the time.
So I left Hawai’i and am renting a beautiful 1 room cabin in the woods 6 miles from home in Spencer, NY. It has a wood stove and a view of the entire valley. I spent all the money I made setting up the gym on good studio equipment and at the beginning of November I’ll move in for a month and start writing and recording music for an album or two.
As with most of my adventures I have not done much planning. I don’t know what genre of music I want the album to be, or the theme, or what I want to say. But whatever.
Sailing Day 12
Just after I finished my last entry Patrick called us on deck, fully geared up. We were past Point Conception and into the Santa Barbara Channel, with oil rigs to our left and dark jagged silhouettes of the channel islands to our right. It was still overcast, dark, cold, and windy: 16-18 knots.
Our task was to douse the spinnaker, so Dillon, Pete, and I went up on bow, (adventure land as they call it) while Jim worked the spin halyard and Patrick drove. Patrick turned down off the wind to ease the tension on the sail while Jim released the halyard and the three of us on bow did everything in our power to retrieve the sail and land it safely on deck. We were all tethered to something on the boat but the excited sea and breeze and darkness and numb fingers made this task quite challenging. It’s like being in one of those money grab games where all the bills are blown all around with a leaf blower, except instead of green backs you’re grabbing at octopus tentacles trying to pull you into the water.
By the time the huge spinnaker was on deck, I was buried and crawled out of the endless folds as the tack line and sheets were detached. We stuffed the kite through the forward hatch and then sat down in the cockpit for a breather. We motor sailed for the rest of the night with the wind at our back. Auto managed to beat out Dillon’s trip speed record by surfing down a wave at 16.9 knots.
I didn’t get much sleep as predicted, but after my early morning shift I slept until my late morning watch. We all stood on deck telling stories and jokes, laughing, and occasionally working to tidy up the boat, but it was all giddy anticipation of the end of the journey. The overcast skies broke up under the proud southern California sun, and like all good sails from Marina Del Rey, the end is punctuated by a gagging waft of pelican crap from the break water wall.
We joined the returning day sailers in a line of boat traffic and then backed up to the dock, tied off the Grand Illusion, did more tidying, sail flaking, dealing with food, then drank beer while everyone waited for their ride.
Sailing Day 11
Today was a day of heightened morale and marked optimism. Jokes were funnier and food tasted better. Starting a watch didn’t involve half hearted routines of suiting up. All because land is not far off. Home awaits and even a short cushy ocean voyage breeds a fondness for solid ground and freedom of foot.
Today was brisk and overcast and the drone of the motor continued out of the darkness and into the day. Two pods of 30 or 40 dolphins swam with us during the day, playfully weaving under our bow. We saw two blue whales, presumably mother and calf. The mother was at least as long as our boat, but navigated the cool water with much more grace.
In the afternoon we had enough wind to fly the kite (spinnaker that is) and keep our 10 knot average up and after a spaghetti dinner the sun, concealed by clouds, fell off the horizon. As soon as it got dark the windspeed climbed precipitously and I found my self a bit bewildered as I scrambled around the cockpit easing sheets as Dillon put all of his weight into the large helm to keep us from rounding up and wreaking havok on our sails. The sea around us came alive with frothing white caps as numerous as headstones in a cemetery. We got the boat under control as the captain popped his head out from below to figure out why we were “screwing around” on deck. I guess 20 knots of breeze just brings out the kids in us!
The wind eased back to 15 knots and my heart rate returned to normal. I noticed the bioluminescence in the wake of the boat. Out in the open ocean it was fat glowing globs but here it was as if the glow possessed the frothy wave it’s self, glowing evenly and richly. I’m going to try and rest, but between turbulent winds, sail changes, and the excitement of landfall I can’t imagine I’ll get too much. No matter. Marina Del Rey tomorrow!
Sailing Day 10
How quickly time passes! I never finished writing about my sailing adventure and have yet to write about my latest trip, and future non-trip. So to finish where I left off…
I was just describing the phenomena of a sea voyage with Pete while washing the dishes of our ahi and chicken taco dinner. It takes most of the fairly short trip to acclimate to life at sea and the ever changing sleep schedule. Once one has actually settled in to a rhythm and come to terms with the task at hand it’s nearly time to disembark.
Patrick keeps yelling down the hatch for everyone to wake up and get on deck for a sail change due to unfavorable winds, but no sooner than the words come out of his mouth the winds conform and he revokes his command. Today was cold and overcast. Because of the state of the weather and and a restless night, I was motivated to do nothing more than write the pertinent wind and navigation info in the log book then climb into my bunk and sleep.
I woke up in the afternoon, well rested and pleasantly surprised to see blue skies through the portholes. Not long after I stumbled out of my bunk all hands were on deck dropping the blast reacher and hoisting a hearty delivery spinnaker. Everything instantly felt very yachty with the colorful kite dominating the sky above the bow of the boat. We had enough wind to keep up our 10 knot average and saw nothing more than a pod of pacific dolphins and some choppy windswept surf.
The anticipation of the end of the trip was building. My journal entry was interrupted for several hours, which I’m now finishing at 12:30 am. We were all called on deck (this time was the real deal) to take down the spinnaker, which we executed in complete darkness aside from the aid of the green starboard bow running light. One person releases the halyard, which is the line which hoist (and lowers) the sail, and three other guys (me included) frantically gather the huge sail, disconnect the halyard, sheets, and tack line, bundle it up, and stuff it down the forward hatch.
Patrick fired up the motor and we were back to short watches and our world was oriented the way nature intended it. We saw dolphins swimming silently next to the boat in the darkness, only making their presence known by the occasional breach. ON my watch which followed the sail affair I played uke and took notice of the thickening fog, or darkening darkness before waking up my resilient and sleepy relief.
And a thought written on my iPhone as I thought in the darkness:
Darkness and blackness meet deep in the vastness,
fumbling and tactless on a starless passage.
Optimists are we who dare venture to sea,
companions like trees, close as can be.