Thursday, November 29, 2007

becoming the distance

it's been a strange
and difficult fall
beautiful heights
some of the best times of my entire life
yet also
some of the saddest

it's been extreme
more extreme than anything i've ever been through yet
the stories i've told here
about our 3 weeks in europe
were not able to properly capture
how amazing it actually was
the beauty of each day we spent there

if i were to exit this world
at this very moment
my last thought would be of me
with J and G
there together
driving through europe
it's one of my most precious memories
of life here

we came back to texas thinking we were 4
but as you know
a week later
we found out we were to be only 3
the studio was in total chaos
being renovated for the old 97s impending recording sessions
on october 10th
we only had a week and a half
to turn the disaster site
into a functioning recording studio again
while jayme was going through one of the most
difficult things any woman can go through
i was working 10 or more hours a day
trying to get the studio finished in time
i wasn't there for her like i would've liked to be
i'm sad about this
i think i always will be

the studio turned out magnificently
bob suffolk
it's creator
is a genius
ex-fabulous poodle
charming workaholic
a man who eats sleeps and dreams
building studios
for us to turn dreams into music
i couldn't have written into this story a more perfect patriarch
for pleasantry lane
if i had wanted to
his jaw dropping design written on the back of dinner napkins
pulled off in just 5 weeks
it should have taken months
i will eternally be in his debt
for the sweat
and more sweat
he put into this labor of love

when the 97s showed up on the 10th
it felt so good to see the looks on their faces
when they saw how radically different the place was
it made all the work we'd put into it
i wish carter could've stuck around
to see the new studio too
he would've been proud
he would've made me proud too
with all the brilliant things he would've created here
i still feel overcome with grief
at random moments of the day
his loss has affected me more than i might have even imagined
i will write more about this soon
it's been bottled up inside of me now
for a bit too long

october and most of november were eaten up
in a second
by the long days recording
and then
before i knew it
our celebration
on the 16th
to cap off the old 97s stay here
planned in just 5 days
the biggest party we've ever had
the goal:
not only to have fun
but to film a dvd for the band
it came and went in a marvelous
but kinda stressful blur
48 hours after that
we were headed to california
to visit chester and eleanor
jayme's grandparents
i had a hard time leaving
as we still had 2 more days with murray
recording bass and vocals
but once we landed in california
i felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders
a peace that i hadn't felt
in ages
visited me again
it was so nice to have no "agenda"
no list of responsibilities
things to get done
the only thing on my mind
at the beginning of each day
was to enjoy the time with i had
with jayme and gavin
we saw ches and eleanor a couple of times
an afternoon spent viewing
the 1200 photo slideshow
of their life
was profoundly touching
it made me want to freeze every second i have
right now
in the here and now
and to wrench as much out of them as possible
we left them sadly waving goodbye
on the drive
i thought it would probably be
the last time
the next day
we met my sister
her husband
and their 2 boys for a day at disneyland
it was spectacular
14 hours that will go down as some of the best
of my life
seeing how happy that place made the boys
was worth everything
we even froze our asses off
so gavin could see cinderella
in the night parade
the look of wonder and joy on his face
when she came dancing by
was priceless
the next day we drove to LA
and stopped in on peter jesperson
the man who discovered the replacements
now the 97s A & R man
after our visit we ate at Mel's on the strip
before heading to Oakland
to visit Maureen and Cody
during the long drive
we left the ipod on random
sang songs
laughed a lot
as if we had not a care in the world
thanksgiving was spent in M and C's cozy
retro decked home
with one of the coolest kitchens i've ever seen
they took us to Rudy's Can't Fail diner
and the patrons ogled at G's clash jacket
we came home friday night refreshed
feeling good
and ready to get back to things
on sunday night
i was in the studio
and Jayme called
something was wrong
she was crying
"my grandpa is dead..."

we've lost 3 now this fall
it's put us through the ringer
so much joy
and so much sadness
the highs
and lows
hopefully no more losses
for awhile
i pray that all my loved ones
(including you)
are safe and sound
and planning to stick around for a long while

take care of yourself please
at least
for me



Friday, November 09, 2007

last day in Hamburg

Day 21

Gunther kindly brought the keys to the car
all the way back to his house
around 1pm
i'd really only gotten a couple hours of sleep
as the kids were up and at it early
we followed him into the city
and back to the Tapete offices
for a business meeting
this was the part i hate
tallying up all the money we'd lost
i felt badly for the label too
because their 20% booking comission
was blown on the GPS replacement we had to buy
they're struggling to survive
and sadly i'm not helping matters any
i was playing the Reeperbahn festival this night
Gunther suggested we park the car early
as getting into this area would be a mess later
after we did that
we went back to his house on the outskirts of town
and i once again had to immediately say goodbye
to Jayme and Gavin
and hop the train back down to Kukuun Bar
i arrived around 5;30
and it was windy and chilly
up until today the weather on our trip had been
pretty fabulous
sunny and warm
we'd really been incredibly lucky
other than a couple of odd days here and there
as i walked to the club
i passed a shop that had all kinds of St. Pauli's
gear in it
St. Pauli is the Hamburg soccer team
Jayme had been wanting some t-shirts before we left
i carefully counted out my money
exactly 14 euros
enough to buy 1 shirt for 13.99
i was going to come back later with my gig money
to get a shirt for G
at soundcheck i got to meet Kolkhurst
one of my label mates
i instantly liked this guy
we went and had dinner together
in the weird glass encased patio
of a hotel lobby
our free food options were that or McDonalds
before my set
which was at 9
i ventured to the 3rd floor of the Kukuun bar
to stand on a 4 foot wide balcony
in the wind and freezing cold
for the nice people of balcony TV
i played "dont be afraid"
my show at Kukuun ended up being great
it was a small but nice club
super modern
the soundguy played good music
dirk d. sat right up front
on my left
it was good to see him there
a songwriter i greatly respect
smiling and singing along to my songs
on the small red sofa on my right
appeared Martin and his friends
3 songs in
i didn't think i was going to see
any of them before i left
it made me really happy that they showed up
i completely forgot how tired i was
and was carried away by the euphoria of the moment
i even wandered off stage
during "she'd walk a mile"
as the crowd clapped their hands and sang along with
it was yet another beautiful moment i will never forget
after my set
i rushed downstairs to the St. Pauli shop
with Dirk and Gunther
to buy a t-shirt for Gavie with my gig money
then they took me on a guided tour
of the Reeperbahn and the places the Beatles played
way back in the day
it was a special moment for me
to be there
with my friends
imagining my favorite band
in the very same place i was
over 40 years ago

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the longest day

Day 20

i hadn't really noticed this little gig
in Krefeld
a 4 and a half hour drive from Hamburg
with no guaranteed money
we were back safe and sound
but completley worn out
in our home away from home
Casa Buskies
in Hamburg
it didn't really make any sense for me
to travel 9 hours round trip
to play tiny Krefeld
especially for no money
but at the Tapete headquarters
early that morning
Gunther and Basti voiced their desire for me to play the show anyway
as Kulterrampe was a new club they'd never booked before
and me cancelling might hurt their relationship
with the club
i understood
and agreed to "take one for the team"
one of the nice Tapete interns
kindly agreed to accompany me to Krefeld
we left at about 3:30
he'd never driven an automatic before
so it was kind of funny
and scary
when he got behind the wheel of the Toyota microwave
for the first time
after some start stop jerking he began to get the hang of it
we didn't get to Krefeld until 8:30
the club owner was outside
nervously pacing the parking lot
he was obviously concerned about whether or not
we were gong to actually show up
even though the practicality of this gig
didn't make much sense to me
i'm glad i did it
a girl named Nicole
who had travelled several hours to my noisy show in Buchen
also made a 2 hour drive to this one
i would have felt like a world class cad
if i'd cancelled it and then found out she showed up
if i'd cancelled i also would've never gotten a chance to meet
the extraordinary Mojo Mendiola
a photographer
and world traveler
who happened to be living in Krefeld
i've attached a photo of him
playing in New York
in the 1970s
i've also included this review he wrote of the show

Salim Nourallah: A quiet magician at the Kulturrampe

By Mojo Mendiola

His Daddy a Syrian, his Mom an American, born in Illinois, grown up in Texas, as a kid presented with the Beatles’ White Album by his Granny after begging for it for a long time, meanwhile a much in demand studio owner and producer in Dallas and honored as a singer/songwriter – so much for the history of Salim Nourallah.

There he stands with his guitar on the Kulturrampe stage, a soft spoken, almost shy seeming young man, and fights a loose connection during his first song. The title "Don’t Be Afraid“ is getting an unexpected ironical connotation. Then, with his warm baritone voice, he sings his songs, reminding time and again of Lennon/McCartney melodically, yet full of original ideas and rhythm-wise moving towards West Coast Rock. He strums his Guild in full chords, now and then blends in descent flat-picking. It doesn’t sound a bit like Texas and he doesn’t even speak (or sing) the typical accent.

Well, the Texas Twang wouldn’t fit his sensitive ballads anyway. They come in a simple but profound, sometimes even enigmatic manner. His relaxed vocals can suddenly jump into sharpness, but then he doesn’t take himself too serious and immediately – with a twinkle in his eye – draws back. Almost slapstick like and as if parodying himself he builds in those little eruptions, creates dynamics, only to return to his warm basic tone a few bars later.

As a kid he was often harassed because of his Arabic name. So in many of his songs he talks about his attempts not to be anxious. Fear leads people to evil outbursts, and at those he is aiming. “Love is for heroes, hate is for fools”, this is his credo. "In this violent world I applaud your innocence“ another line reads and he is thinking of his children, the four year old son and the baby to come. And he sings these lines without any false pathos, almost just by the way, humbly on one hand, nonetheless decided on the other.

So the audience is hardly realizing how fast his magic is making time pass even without spectacular highlights. Only when Nourallah is about to finish his performance the ban loosens. The man, who tours more in Europe than he does in the States, has to travel on to Hamburg the very same night. But he is not allowed to go there without giving a few encores first.

after the show Matthias and i inhaled a cold meal
and then hit the road
it was only 11:30 but that would put us back in Hamburg
around 4am
it rained the whole way back
which was kind of stressful
but M was a methodical
and safe driver
we listened to the entire Tapete 100 compiltation cd
which was nice
i felt proud to be on the 100 cd
and blessed to be invovled with such a fantastic record label
really a dream come true for me
to actually love my label
and i do
i love you Tapete!!!
when i dropped Matthias off
we were so out of it
delirious and floaty feeling
i soon realized he'd walked off with the keys to the car
weird thing is
it was still running
so i went home
with the sinking feeling that we would be stranded
the next day
unable to start our microwave on wheels
by the time i finally got to bed
alongside my sweet family
i don't think i'd ever been more tired
it felt so good to be back home
safe and sound
J and G sleeping peacefully in the dark upstairs room
brought me comfort
my longest day
finally over
at 5am

Saturday, November 03, 2007

back to the Rhineland

Day 19

it took us 1 hour and 40 minutes to find the highway
out of Prague
it was fitting that our last conversation
with a not so helpful member of the hotel staff
involved a hand gesture and half-hearted
"the highway is over there" directions
this is a pretty massive city
it was the equivalent of me pointing
and telling someone in the heart of Irving that
"Hamburg is that way...just follow the signs"
we basically drove aimlessly
trying to find a road we recognized
Gavin sat calmly and patiently in the backseat
sucking his thumb and looking out the window
as his poor bewildered parents struggle to escape
the Czech Republic
i made some sort of turn into a long tunnel
that Jayme swore would be the end of us
but when we came out the other side
i recognized where we were
we'd made a full circle around the outskirts of the city
and came back to the castle on the river in the city center
we followed the massive traffic
swept up along with in our little microwave on wheels
it took us about another 2 hours to get out of the country
when we finally crossed the border
entering the Rhineland
crwling at a snail's pace
behind - guess what?
a Czech cop car
i wished i could have sung the German national anthem
once we finally crossed over
i was so happy
our GPS even lit up and came back to life
we gave a little cheer as we pulled onto the autobahn into a normal flow of traffic
goodbye and good riddance Czech Republic!
lets do a little dance
we drove 7 uneventful hours until we reached Hamburg and familiarity
by the time we got back to Gunther's house
i only had 30 minutes before i had to leave for my show
it was at a place called Musicstar
in a suburb called Norderstedt
Basti and his girlfriend Rahel (pictured)
had agreed to accompany me to the gig
so i drove into the city center
to pick them up
i really enjoyed the 25 minute drive
at dusk
down along the river
through nice wooded neighbourhoods
that reminded me a lot of Seattle
Hamburg is an extremely livable
and well-maintained city
i met Basti and Rahel in front of an old theater
and we were on our way
Musicstar was a small listening room
in the basement of a music shop
it reminded me a lot of bend Studio
in Dallas
really great sound
a small nicely decorated stage
kind and gracious people running the venue
an Australian guy named Beau Young
was opening up for me
i was told he'd been a world surfing champion
and was now playing music
i sipped wine with Basti and Rahel
then played a short 40 minute set
to a polite and attentive
but smallish audience
afterwards we decided to eat at a Mongolian
restaurant in the same strip shopping center
as the club
i felt great
the food was excellent
and the company even better
it had been another really nice evening
one i will always remember

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Prague does not Rock

Day 18

we were very sad to leave our posh Vienna hotel
especially after another royal room-service breakfast
and a great night’s sleep
i had a decent show the night before
a small but dedicated audience
but did't get back in until after 3:00AM
as i was waitng awkwardly for a ride from Klaus
while he spun records in a nightclub
i gotta say though
the collector had mighty fine taste in music
he was a bad-ass DJ
and played tons of great tracks i'd never heard before
it was noon when we finally hit the road to Prague
we discovered that morning that our GPS did't cover the Czech Republic
we had no map and only sketchy directions along the lines of
“you get on that highway and just keep going”
Jayme searched the internet that morning
for directions and managed to get some dodgy ones from mapquest
i say dodgy because mapquest also doesn't cover the Czech Republic
but if you ask for directions from Vienna to Hamburg
it will lead you through the Czech Republic
passing right past Prague
so we thought we could probably get as far as the city
and then we'd just have to make our way to the hotel
we were really looking forward to seeing Prague
we'd heard nothing but good things about it
even from a nice NYC couple we chatted with in line
for the opera tickets
the highway we were on quickly turned into a two lane road
in the middle of nowhere
as soon as we neared the Czech border
when we crossed the border our GPS went totally blank
it was like sailing off the end of the world
the countryside changed immediately from manicured farmland
to desolate nothingness
it reminded me of Denton
we passed through two towns on the way to Prague
and they were vastly different from any of the European towns
we'd seen so far
the architecture consisted of simple block houses
and buildings with almost no windows
between the towns there was nothing
not a farm or a village or building of any kind
not a farmer cow or trace of life
nothing except
that's right
lots of them around
it was like driving through Waco on the 4th of July
cops everywhere
a couple even decided to follow us for awhile
for kicks?
who knows...
i just felt instantly creeped out
and nervous
the closer we got to Prague
there more some signs of civilization began to appear
in the form of billboards
with the tackiest advertising i've ever seen
we had no idea what the speed limit was
as there was nothing posted so we just went as fast as the other cars around us
they flew along like they thought they were on the autobahn
until another policecar appeared
and then they'd slam on their breaks and cut their speed in half
it was ridiculous
we made it to the city and before we could even decide where to turn
we were swept along with a giant wave of traffic
eventually Jayme saw a street she recognized from the guide book and yelled
"turn here!"
we miraculously made it to the hotel by following another postage stamp sized map
this hotel was another J had booked while at home
on the edge of town
away from the heavy tourist traffic
our room was ok
it had another super modern bathroom
but it was nowhere near as cool as the last one
the weird thing was that this place looked cool on the surface
but the closer it was inspected the worse it got
for example
they went to all of this trouble to create this fancy, modern bathroom
that looked pretty clean on the surface
but then there were all these weird stains on the walls
the same went for the bedroom
modern and kind of cool but weird stains on the curtains and floor and ceiling
it kinda made you wonder...
we walked around Prague for about an hour
and found a little hidden Indian restaurant that was excellent
it was dark by the time we left and we had about an hour’s walk back to the tram stop
i have to say that Prague was not so great
it sounded much quainter in the guide book
really, there was nothing quaint about it
the city is congested and dirty
it has the worst traffic we'd ever witnessed
far worse than L.A.
it's obvious that the city has undergone significant changes
in the last 15 years
since getting out from under communist rule
now that there is a lot more money in the city
and people can afford cars
there are a lot more cars
however, there are not enough roads to accommodate them
and as far as i could tell
there were no plans to create larger roads
or even room to create them
there is an amazing castle in the city
and a city center with the usual big impressive cathedrals
and old buildings
but beyond that Prague was just trashy
there were tons of tacky souvenir shops
and upscale shopping stores
that had pushed out whatever old shops and restaurants had been there before
it was as if the city had embraced the worst of capitalism
with no regard to its effects on the traditional culture
Footlocker, etc.
alongside those were the trashy sex shops
and trashy bars on every corner
the people of Prague were also thoroughly charmless
ruder than any we'd encountered on either of our trips to europe
their over-the-top disdain for tourists was actually hilarious
it was so extreme that it was like watching a Saturday Night Live spoof
on the street i noticed lots of stern
humorless facial expressions
if you were in their way at all
they would just run over you
in car or on foot
i can’t tell you how many times Jayme was knocked off of the sidewalk
into traffic
by some angry looking Praguer
i also noticed right away that the women – of every age –
were all dressed very provocatively
or as i put it
“all dressed like whores!”
they more cosmetics in this city than anywhere else on the planet
because brother
these women were using it like crazy
that and tube tops!
we were actually happy to return to our hotel room
and get an early night’s sleep
for our 7 hour drive to Hamburg in the morning
i went to bed that night dreaming of Casa Buskies
and seeing our dear friends in Hamburg
i couldn't wait to get back to our home away from home!!