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To Boldly Go…

A couple of weeks ago, the world lost an explorer whom I’d never taken the time to get to know while he was alive. And I wish I had.

I’m referring to Anthony Bourdain, chef, explorer, and travel personality. Perhaps someday he’ll be the Patron Saint of Trying New Things for the First Church of Hedonism; I don’t know. Regardless, I’d heard of him but had no clue about what he did. My understanding of contemporary culture has some holes in it; I know.

After reading some short tributes to him, which praised his adventuring spirit, I decided that I should check out some of the tribute reruns of his program, Parts Unknown, that were showing that weekend on CNN. And while pieces of it drag, most of it is fascinating, as he explores and reveals little nooks and crannies of the world that are easy to miss when you’re on the Interstates or in the air. It doesn’t hurt that he seems to have had a very good crew, camerapeople and editors/producers.

Along the way I discovered that he and I were both working in restaurants on Cape Cod in the first half of the 1970s. He fell in love with it; I decided I really never wanted to work in food service again. So it goes.

I started off the year committing to doing one new creative thing a week. I managed the better part of four months on that before falling off the wagon. I’m going to try something different and perhaps less constraining – to do one new thing every week. Try a new recipe. Try a restaurant I’ve never been to. Go to a new place. Hopefully I’ll still do the occasional new bit of music and/or video. It beats sitting in front of the computer all day.

Though I think I will draw the line at seal eyeballs and warthog rectums.

I’m already getting ideas, just as I drive around. There’s a Cajun place about halfway from here to Port Charlotte that I keep driving by. There are tons of restaurants up and down US 41 within half an hour of here. Hell, there are probably two or three waterfront restaurants in the area I’ve never been in.

Last week, I made Mongolian beef for the first time from an Internet recipe. It came out awesome. One of my Facebook friends helped me remember that one of my favorite foods in Key West is a Mongolian beef (bulgogi) taco at Garbo’s, and that gave me a couple of ideas for other ways to fix it for meals. It’s a crock pot/instant pot recipe, so it’s not hard to do. Give it a try.

One of Mr. Bourdain’s other shows had him in South Carolina, and along the way he stopped at a very interesting BBQ place. I’m going to be up that way next month, going to visit my brother, so I think I’m going to drive out of my way to find that restaurant and try their ‘Q for myself. I’ll let you know how it is.

Sail on, Mr. Bourdain. May you spend the next however-long exploring marvelous places and cuisines, where everything is delicious and nothing hurts.

New song: Another Sunset

And no sooner have I admitted that I’m not doing as great as I wanted to with my “creative thing” project…I wrote a new song. :) Let me tell you about it.

About a week ago, a friend of mine (Gweko/Gary Ek) was reflecting on having a birthday, and said something that I immediately resonated with and said, “That would go great in a song!” So I borrowed it. :)

And that day, Gweko had a small birthday party on his boat with friends, down in Key West Bight. Among those friends are friends of mine, including Key West Chris. Chris writes some awesome stuff, in a bunch of styles that I normally don’t attempt. But I decided that the idea that I was growing (reflections during a party on a boat) would go well in a Key West Chris sort of style. So I tried it, and got something usable. Chris would no doubt substitute a bunch of more interesting chords in places, but what the heck.

It started out as a birthday-themed song, but the lyrics around that felt awkward, so I changed them. Now it’s more “reflections on a life apparently well-lived, from the back of a boat in some island harbor.”

The title is “Another Sunset,” and here’s the video link: https://youtu.be/O83axIxL3Jk.

Okay, I give up. Sortakinda.

It’s possible that you might have actually noticed you haven’t heard from me here in a while. Or not; there’s so much going on out there that it’s easy to get distracted and not notice that someone you’re used to hearing from has been a bit quieter of late. Hell, *I* do that.

Anyway, back at the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to do something creative every single week, and to share that with you every week. And for the better part of four months…I succeeded.

However, for most of the last month…I haven’t been succeeding. Hell, I’ve been about half-dry, and some weeks I barely come up with four lines of possible lyrics.

So I’m just gonna own that I couldn’t make it the entire year. But I got several interesting and cool songs and a couple of passable songs out of it, and I managed to mostly keep that commitment for four months. And that’s better than I’ve ever done on something like that before.

And in the end…the only person I’m really out to beat is myself. :)

So the updates will likely be less frequent, unless I gear back up for another round and keep it going. Which is possible – if I can do four months once, I can do it again.

I didn’t post about it last week, but about a week ago I got a music idea and managed to get the essentials of it recorded before I ran out of idea and steam. Which to me is harder to do than just writing down lyrics or singing stuff into a pocket recorder. I managed to do a “prototype” in about an hour with underlying chords, the melody line I wanted, and I found a drum track/loop that works with it all. I need to go back and play with it some more, because I really do have ideas on how to finish it. It’ll be a calypso/soca instrumental number I’m calling “Rainbow Beach,” after a lovely place in St. Croix I got to spend some time last year. When I get a semi-finished version of it done, I’ll share it.

In the meantime…I also want to do an update to my mailing list, in which I’ll talk a bit about some of the cool things I’ve done the past few weeks, including a trip to Key West for Conch Republic Days and a couple of fun times I’ve spent with my musical friends.

And there will be more interesting songs, videos, and posts. The past few months have opened up some interesting creative doors for me, and I expect I’ll continue to explore beyond them.

Stay tuned.

Preparedness and the Internet

I got thrown into “Facebook Jail” today for the first time.

Personally, I’ve seen far worse stuff on FB than I got gigged for. I objected to someone calling me names and misgendering me, and I didn’t swear at them to do it. I filed a complaint, which likely goes to the Seventh Circle of Hell or some similar place – FB really doesn’t care how badly they inconvenience people, so long as they make their ad revenue targets. But that thing needed doing.

Oddly, I don’t contest their right to do that, or whatever else they want. It’s a free service, and we all blithely signed away our rights to our own content and online lives when we decided to have an account with them. They have the absolute power to shut you away from the fraction of your life that you’ve entrusted to them. For as long as they want.

But just so you know, let me tell you what FB jail looks like from the inside.

You can’t post. Obviously. You can’t even get a post in via your linked Twitter account. I don’t know about Instagram or other linked services.

You can’t “like” anything. I’m guessing you can’t even share stuff, but I didn’t try it.

And you can’t initiate or respond to messages in Messenger. No matter how serious.

It’s online government by Conan the Barbarian: Arbitrary rules, and absolutely no mercy. If your best friend dies and you don’t have the mundane contact info for their Next of Kin and you have info that said kin absolutely must have, they’re out of luck. If you run your business exclusively through FB, you can’t respond to orders, questions about orders, etc. You can’t update the regular stuff people expect you to update.

Granted, there should be consequences to violating rules of conduct. But when I see people engaging in obvious hate speech and not losing access, and I get gigged for something far less dire, when the rules *change* every time you turn around…it’s like trying to appease an abusive spouse. The goalposts keep moving, and no matter what you do, it’s never enough.

Enough of that. I’ll have access again sometime tomorrow, and I’m actually enjoying my respite from the negativity-charged wrestling match that FB has become. I’ve been dealing with food poisoning for a few days; I’ve already gotten used to eating and drinking a lot less than usual. This is just one more opportunity to try living for a bit without some of my usual habits and escapes. It’s kind of fun, actually. Liberating.

What I want to talk about is this: If all of your life is on FB or any other online service, what do you do if that service is taken away from you? How do you “route around the breakage?”

If it’s your business, how do you keep from losing it, or losing valuable income and customers?

If it’s friends and family or loved ones, how do you stay connected? What if your house burns down while you’re in FB jail; how do you get hold of people to help you? What if it happens while there’s a tornado or hurricane bearing down on you? What if you’re having a personal crisis and can’t get hold of your counselor or therapist because you only connect with them through FB?

Don’t laugh. The people who get hurt the worst in disasters are the ones who don’t believe it can happen to them. So take some time to think this through and come up with some possibilities for yourself.

Some thoughts:

1) If someone is sufficiently important to you that being disconnected from them would negatively impact your life or theirs, especially if something unexpected happens, have at least two (if not three) different ways of getting in touch with them, and they with you. This can be a phone number, an email address (yes, some people still use email), Skype, whatever. Make a list of who those people are in your life. Go through your phone contacts and/or your FB friends list if necessary, and then make sure you’ve got other ways to get hold of them.

2) If you’re running your business primarily on Facebook, get a website. Hosting sites are really cheap, and a lot of them will build your website for you or give you tools to do it yourself. Because of my music business, I’ve got a website, a blog site, Twitter, Reverbnation, my own domain with email addresses, and one or two other ways of getting info out to people that Facebook can never touch. If FB went away tomorrow, I’d lose connections for a while, but I have ways of eventually getting most of them back. And tomorrow I will be posting all of my links to FB for people to hopefully connect with.

3) Consider setting up an alternate social media site and/or an alternate way of sending and receiving messages. I’m checking out MeWe right now. Instagram works for some folks. Twitter still works for some. I think you can still get free email on Gmail, if you don’t mind Google snooping in your stuff. There are others.

4) If you get into the same situation I’m in, make sure you’ve got a friend or two who can post a note to your page for you. Not *as* you, because that doesn’t work right now. But make sure that at least some trusted friends can post stuff to your FB page. For a 24-hour ban I’m not bothering, but if it were longer than that, I’d email or text someone to do that for me.

We have placed our own heads into the wolf’s mouth. We can hardly do much if the wolf decides to bite.

(With apologies to the noble Wolf for the comparison.)

Creative Week 17: Nothing new today

Hiya,

I did not finish anything this past week. And I’m choosing to not beat myself up over this.

I continue writing down interesting new ideas, lyrics, etc. I continue rehearsing the various things I’m doing. And I continue having the experiences that will feed my ability to create from that raw stuff.

I’m heading down to Key West this weekend for the tail end of Conch Republic Days. It’ll be my first time down there for this event, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll see a few of you there.

Cheers,

Loren

Creative Week #16: Something Fun (and timely) for Tax Day

Creative report card update: Still working on a couple of songs, including a possible update on “It’s a Wonderful Life.” All well and good. I’ve got a bunch of video from my 3/31 show that will eventually get processed; right now I’m still doing this other video project for a friend, which takes a lot of my bandwidth.

I was looking at the news online, and saw an article with the approximate title of, “What Happens if you File Your Taxes Late?” And my brain went instantly to a variant on the old “This is your brain on drugs” commercial. I found a couple of eggs in the fridge that appear to be past their “eat by” date, figured out how to do the deed without making too much of a mess, and presto – a video was born.

Here it is: https://youtu.be/rQPWBwT1qyg

I would also like to thank musician and comedian Ali Spagnola for giving me part of the idea for this video, because she’s done some similar things for other holidays. Ali, I hope to meet you someday.

I hope that Tax Day is kinder to you this year than it was to me. Cheers!

Creative Week #15: A finished product

Hiya!

So…you might remember a couple of months back when I finished the first draft of a song titled “No Place Like Far Away?” I even did the video for it while down in Key West!

Well, in the past couple of months I’ve been polishing the song. I’ve fine-tuned the lyrics, and I took the spoken part in the middle and made it line up with the groove of the song. And I think I turned out something good.

A week ago, I took the song out in front of an audience for the first time. Everyone seemed to have fun with it. Here’s the video of that performance.

I’m still working on other ideas, including at least one rewrite of something I did earlier in the year. And I’m still working on the big video project I’m doing for someone else, which is taking some of the cycles I’d normally use to split out more songs from last week’s show and from my January gig in the Keys. Eventually, I’ll have all of the good stuff out and available.

And hopefully this coming week, I’ll make time to do a live set from home. Stay tuned for more info, especially if you’re on my Facebook.

Creative Week #14: Yes, I skipped one…but…

…I’m back with the song I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.

Not that I want to make excuses for myself, but I *was* also rehearsing strong for this past Saturday’s house concert. Which went very well, thank you, and there will be videos to YouTube. When I get some time free from my *other* ongoing video project.

I originally got the idea for this song from a Facebook meme, along the lines of, “I meditate, I chant, I do yoga, and I still want to slap some people.” And another meme/bumper sticker provided me with the title inspiration:
“Namaste, muthafka!” Which I modified to keep the song PG. And the revised version (“Namaste MF”) scans better, especially in the reggae groove I ended up using.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/hIIaOBJGeKk

As a first-draft song, I know it needs polishing. The verses could set up the chorus better, and could be funnier. The music is still a work in progress. But for a first draft, it’s…workable.

Meanwhile, I need to find some good times to do live ‘casts about once a week, featuring music and general Lorenfoolery. If there’s a time that works best for you, let me know. Though I think I’ll mix it up a bit, because other people have time zones and lives that don’t line up with my own.

Creative Week #12: I Finish the Song

So…last week I shared half of a song. During the week, I finished it, and I’m going to share the lyric here. Not sure it quite meets what I want as a song to keep working on, but it was important to me to finish what I started.

I also got started on a new song inspired by a couple of memes I’ve seen online, the type that go, “I meditate, I smudge, and I still want to smack some people.” I’ve got a chorus and a collection of possible lines; my goal is to finish this song for you for *next* week. The working title is “Namaste, MF!”

Meanwhile, here’s the *finished* draft lyric for “Georgia Sand, Florida Clay:”

I was somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta

At a quiet bar, waiting for Rush Hour to clear

When the woman at my right downed a shot and then she sighed

And in the corner of her eye I could see the start of tears

 

Can I offer you a drink for your sorrows?

She said yes, and we chatted for a while

I said, “You could come escape; if you follow me tomorrow

To my place down by the beach, I bet it could make you smile”

 

CHORUS

Will you stroll on my Florida Sand

And leave your Georgia Clay

Will you come south, maybe take my hand

Even though it’s a little far away?

 

I was only halfway joking, and she chuckled in reply

And said, “You’re really very sweet, but I can’t accept

It’s not just that you’re a stranger, see, I really have to try

To mend my wounded life and make an end to my regrets

 

So I can’t stroll on your Florida Sand

And leave my Georgia Clay

I’d love to talk, maybe hold your hand

But I just can’t run away

 

I left her my number in case she ever changed her mind

Paid our tab, and I headed south again

Something about her eyes makes me think of her from time to time

Perhaps someday she’ll call, and tell me then:

 

“I’m coming to stroll on your Florida Sand

And leaving my Georgia Clay

To talk with you, and hold your hand

And we can share our days”

Creative Thing Week 11: Half a Song, and…

Yes, I’m still creating. And yes, I’m still working on some projects that will take some time before I can share a semi-finished product with you. I tried tracking my instrumental project last week, and wasn’t quite to where it’d work. But I’m closer now, thanks to more rehearsal. Hopefully this week…

I do have half or 2/3 of a new song that I’m working on. When I made my “eclipse trip” up through GA last summer, I had an idea come to me of “Florida sand and Georgia clay.” I didn’t know what to do about that then. A couple of days ago, while listening to some Jesse Rice music, I got a song idea that works with that particular contrast. I don’t quite have the whole thing yet, but I’ve got two verses and a chorus. The song will probably be verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, (bridge, chorus). And I may tweak the later choruses to fit the story. I think it will end up being an unrequited love song. Here’s what I’ve got:

Florida Sand, Georgia Clay

I was somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta

A a quiet bar, waiting for rush hour to clear

When the woman at my right downed a shot, and then she sighed

And in the corner of her eye, I could see the start of tears

 

Can I offer you a drink for your sorrows?

She said yes, and we chatted for a while

I said, “you could come escape; you can follow me tomorrow

To my place by the beach, I bet it could make you smile

 

CHORUS

Will you stroll on my Florida Sand

And leave your Georgia Clay?

Will you come south and maybe take my hand

Even though it’s a little far away?

(unwritten verse 3: She politely declined and we went our separate ways)

(unwritten bridge: I wonder how her story turned out. Wonder what might have happened if she’d…)