#GD50

Last weekend the Grateful Dead (or just the Dead, if you don’t want to insult Jerry) played two shows at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, 80 miles north of here, and this weekend they’re playing three shows at Soldier Field in Chicago, a few miles further. These five, swan-song performances mark the 50th anniversary of their founding. They haven’t played together in years and likely won’t again–so we went to both Santa Clara shows.

Considering Levi's Stadium holds nearly 70,000 people and these were mostly sold-out shows, getting into the place wasn't terrible.

Considering Levi’s Stadium holds nearly 70,000 people and these were sold-out shows, getting into the place wasn’t as terrible as expected.

Long security lines (with bag checks and metal detectors) gave us plenty of time to check out the scenery.

FARE THEE WELL

You'd think a band would get lost in a stadium, but the stage was HUGE.

You’d think a band would get lost in a stadium, but the stage was HUGE.

We knew our seats were "restricted view" but thought we'd be okay since we were on the side. Nope. Huge screens blocked any view of the band. So Saturday night's show was like being at a weird simulcast.

We knew our seats the first night were “restricted view” but thought we’d be okay since we were on the side. Nope. Huge screens blocked any view of the band. So Saturday night’s show was like being at a weird simulcast.

Not being able to see the band (and having a slight aversion to watching them on the big screen), I took the opportunity to people watch. I don't think I've ever

Not being able to see the band (and having a slight aversion to watching them on the big screen), I took the opportunity to people watch. So much good stuff. This dude danced the entire show with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. Whether that was prompted by chemicals or the music, I don’t know. Why not both?

The costumes people wear at Dead shows could best be described as "circus hippie."

The costumes people wear at Dead shows could best be described as “circus hippie.”

asdfd

It’s nice to live in a state that didn’t just humiliate itself over gay marriage (now called “marriage”). Also note the guy trying to fly a kite.

There were Dead flags, too.

There were Dead flags flying, too.

Gumby.

Gumby.

The crowd turned and looked into the sky behind the stage. I thought they'd heard some kind of pot dog whistle, but ends up it was a rainbow.

Toward the end of the first set, the crowd turned and looked into the sky behind the stage. I thought they’d heard some kind of patchouli dog whistle, but ends up it was a rainbow. A double-rainbow, actually, though it’s hard to see the second one in this shot.

asdfds

So. Many. People.

So. Much. Weed.

So. Much. Weed.

So. Many. Colors.

So. Many. Colors.

The seats for show number two were much better. The performance was, too.

The seats for show number two were much better, if not further away from the stage (this is zoomed in).

My friend Evan is involved in an effort to create a huge natural swimming pool in the middle of Houston. This beach ball was my Kickstarter reward.

A friend is involved in an effort to create a huge natural swimming pool in the middle of Houston (called Houston Needs a Swimming Hole). Thought I’d spread the word out here by sending this ball on a journey.

It made it all the way to the front of the stadium.

It made it all the way to the front of the stadium.

Hey, look who it is!

Hey, look who it is! Circus Hippie! And he wasn’t the only person we recognized from the first show.

We don't know these people.

We don’t know these people.

Things got more interesting after dark.

The 80-mile drive back home each night sucked, but it was worth it for a couple of pretty amazing–and colorful–shows.

roll me up

that flag looks familiar

a little flavor from home

Carmel is a weird place to see Willie Nelson, which we did last night. Then again, his show was sold out, so maybe the disconnect isn’t that great. Plenty of rich people like weed and songs about weed and seeing artists who smoke weed and who recently released a song called Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die featuring Snoop Dogg singing about being smoked like weed postmortem.

I bought our tickets months ago, before we moved, somehow knowing we’d be ready for a little Texas flavor one month into our California residency. Sure enough, during Willie’s first song, the Texas flag came rolling out. And I felt…recognition. Not state pride, exactly. More like:

Hey. I know them. I should say hi. But what if they don’t remember me. Eh, fuck it. Let’s go.

If that makes any sense.

Willie’s son’s band opened. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The audience didn’t really get into it (even though the band is great) until the third song, which Lukas sang just like his father. Then they started listening. The old ladies sitting behind us, who had a conversation going the entire show, were getting flustered about this cute young version of Willie. “Is he BAREFOOT?” they wondered aloud, the expensive Chardonnay fumes wafting from their Chanel-painted mouths. “He’s SOOOOO CUTE!”

Bless their hearts.

At intermission, we briefly chatted with an older cat who ended up having to take a call. He got off the phone and said, “(Woman’s name) can’t meet us. Said she’s been drinking wine for three days straight.”

Yeah.

Willie is 81 and still puts on a helluva show, though it did feel a little like an amusement park ride. One hit after another without a breath in between and very little banter. Like they needed to barrel through in order to get to the end. I get it. Life’s like that sometimes.

Come ride “WILLIE’S GREATEST HITS,” which ends in you coming to in a cloud of OG Kush wearing nothing but a red bandana.

I gotcher flow right here, buddy

each of us is unique, like a snowflake or grain of sand (though most of us aren't as cool as fat little beach dogs)

each of us is unique, like a snowflake or grain of sand (though most of us aren’t as cool as fat little beach dogs)

The recommendation came from someone I know or someone whose blog I read. I don’t remember. The book is called Finding Flow, The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.  I had a bit of a buzz when I ordered it. You know, holding a glass of wine in one hand, scrolling around on the internet with the other, reading about what a great book this is for getting shit done. “Hey! I need to get shit done,” I thought. “Maybe this book is just what I need.”

Two things.

One, here’s an excerpt from the book. You’re gonna love it.

Leaving aside those still relatively few career women whose primary identification is with their jobs, most women who work at clerical, service and even managerial occupations tend to think of their outside job as something they want to do rather than something they have to do. Work is more voluntary for many women; it is more like play, something that they could take or leave. Many of them feel that whatever happens on the job is not that important–and thus, paradoxically, they can enjoy it more. Even if things go wrong and they are laid off it will not hurt their self esteem. As opposed to men, their self image depends more heavily on what happens to their families.

I know what you’re thinking, that this book was written shortly after WWII. Nope. Copyright is 1997. Dude teaches psychology and education at University of Chicago and, presumably, works with a few women who don’t spend all their time clutching their pearls hoping they set the crock pot at the right temperature before venturing out into the big, scary world in their sweater set and pumps.

That excerpt came more than a third of the way in, so I wasn’t suprised by it. There had been earlier warning signs that my brain tripped over (and not in a good way), but I rarely ever abandon a book. Even if it’s shitty, I keep reading. Because maybe the good part happens later. Sometimes you have to give a thing some time to develop. But I should have known this was wasted effort when, early on, Mr. Flow compares the uniqueness of human beings to snowflakes. It was the equivalent of a stale fart coming off the page. And the fart lingered, my friend. It lingered.

I finally stopped reading the book shortly after the passage above. Not because I’m angry or insulted. Just because this cat obviously isn’t talking to me.

Two, and most important, the book reminded me of something I already knew but evidently needed to be reminded of: if you’re reading books about creating or being artistic or getting shit done, you’re doing none of the above. Period. So maybe it was worth $11 to get a little knock upside the head.

Oh–just thought of a third thing: I shouldn’t order shit off the internet when I’ve been drinking.

a thanksgiveaway

I’m giving away two tickets to see Louis CK in Austin next month. I bought them when the Houston show was sold out (because I wasn’t going to miss this tour). Then he added a second Houston show (to which I scored front row seats) (yes, it was fecking awesome), so I’m giving the Austin tickets away. Maybe to you.

Here’s the deal:

  • You must live in Austin (or somewhere in Texas, if you can convince me that you’ll be able to see a late show in Austin on a Thursday night)
  • You must agree to email me a picture from the venue, preferably from your seat, the night of the show
  • You must leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Louis CK bit is (from his stand up or his series) and why – I want these tickets to go to a fan

In exchange for the above, I will email you the link to print the tickets within a few days of the show (not sending earlier than that because I don’t want them to be resold).

Here are the specific details about the show:

And…go.

UPDATE: Thanks to the three people who’ve chimed in so far. I’ll be drawing a name from a hat (or maybe a bowl) some time tomorrow. Not sure if I’ll do it in the frenzy of the morning or the drunken stupor of the evening. Either way, I’ll email the winner and post the name here.

As for the rest of you – you have at least 24 hours left to enter. Be sure to follow the simple instructions above. (There are two reasons I’m giving away these tickets in this fashion: 1. I didn’t want to have to choose from among my friends and 2. this is a chance for us to share some funny shit with each other. It’s a small price to pay to see one of the greatest comics of our generation, even if they are balcony seats…)

FINAL UPDATE: And the winner is…

Thanks for playing!

ad astra per alas porci

My radio silence of late isn’t because I’ve been trapped under something heavy and unable to reach my keyboard. I’ve been right in front of my computer a lot, actually, working on a few long shot projects. Things that have only slightly better odds of coming to fruition than the mythical flying piglet in the sky. In addition to the pain of writing artistic statements (which are always entirely more difficult to create than the project you’re writing about), I’ve also been wrestling with this new play. This bastard, assface, frustrating piece of work. And it’s winning. For now.

As is usual when I’m stuck in my own head, I seek out things to stimulate my brain and, hopefully, help me work around the mental roadblock. One great source of unending interest is the ARTISAN VIDEOS section of Reddit. It’s a joyous thing to watch skilled artists do their thing, like:

There’s something wonderfully soothing about watching people work with their hands. And there are other distractions to be found, so many things to do other than the task(s) at hand. This isn’t a video, it’s an image. A very funny image that is now the background on my work computer. It was simply titled, “I was eating some bread, when suddenly…” And while we’re on the subject of dogs, here’s a lovely homage to the dog/human relationship.

Another item I ran across recently: Henry Miller on writing. (How awesome his daily routine sounds. Writing, going to museums, reading in cafes, painting, going on walks and bike rides through unknown areas, making charts and plans.) If you click the link, you’ll notice that his first commandment about writing is “Work on one thing at a time until finished.” I would do well to follow that one.

Going to go work in the yard. Perhaps I’ll find inspiration there.

PS – the title of this post = to the stars on the wings of a pig. John Steinbeck’s motto. Don’t fuck with the Pigasus.

Friday list

Slogan for this demo/remodeling company: "No job it's too small." Wonder how much work they get...

  • Hung out with friends last weekend. Well into the evening (and the wine), someone said to me, “Is it okay if I ask you a personal question?” I always have the same answer. “Of course.” In fact, please ask me a personal question. Because it generally means shit is about to get real. I like it when we move beyond the superficiality of the day-to-day to dig into the hidden recesses. I’d tell you what the question was, but it’s personal.
  • You may have seen links to the short film Caine’s Arcade on teh internets the past week or two. If you haven’t watched it yet, do. The film is ten minutes of fantastic. While you’re watching, imagine if the dreams of all children (big ones, too) were supported in such a loving and respectful way.
  • Here’s a new literary term that I may have made up (but there are no original ideas, so maybe someone else already did): vinfictive – writing presented as fiction that is really a thinly veiled attack on people who have wronged the author in the past. A distant cousin to vaguebooking. Not my kind of writing, but it’s out there. Perhaps I should add a definition to Urban Dictionary?
  • There are a couple of other people at work who love The Band, so in honor of Levon Helm’s passing we’re going to watch The Last Waltz and raise a glass at the end of the workday. That may be the best concert film ever made. Here’s a ridiculous blog post I wrote while watching it on cable a couple of years ago (even though I own the DVD). I claimed to not be drunk, but reading it now I have my doubts.

42

There are two things I remember from the great Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: thanks for all the fish, and the meaning of life is 42. Because of this book, which I read in high school when the thought of being in my 40s was as real to me as time travel, I’ve always held my 42nd birthday (and the following year) in mind as a period when something special would occur. When I’d reach an epiphany of sorts. When I’d figure shit out. I will turn 42 on Thursday, good lord willin’, so I guess we’ll see.

Here’s a quote from Douglas Adams about his choice for the answer to the eternal question, which many people try to attribute deeper meaning to.

It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.

That’s actually a pretty apt description of writing in general. You stare off into space, something pops into your head and you write it down. If you’re lucky, it works. It’s both totally magical and completely mundane. One could argue that the subconscious is at work even when it seems like the writer is grabbing bullshit out of mid-air, so it’s possible that Adams had something deeper in mind when he came up with 42. But prolly not. Sometimes a banana…

FOLLOW THE BACON (photo courtesy of the maker)

My brother, father and I have birthdays during the same week in March, and we got together this weekend to celebrate. The bookend/piece of art above is what Tohner made me for my birthday. FOLLOW THE BACON has multiple meanings in our family, from a culinary modus operandi to a way of looking at life. Those meanings take this piece beyond being something useful and fun to look at and morph it into a bigger symbol of shared history, where we are now and hopes for the future.

Tohner said he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with the tile when he bought it, but he knew he had to make something for me with it. And he had the faith to know that inspiration would come to him. That’s what separates artists from non-artists – trusting yourself enough to act on instinct, knowing that the rest will follow. Believing that maybe 42 is the answer to everything and that some day pigs will fly, despite all evidence to the contrary.

it even smells the same

Sadly, I'm still looking for a fuzzy pumper.

Last weekend was my nephew Rowan’s third birthday. Now that he’s getting a little older, buying presents for him is becoming more fun. Instead of ironic baby tee shirts that reference my youth and not his, I can now buy him fun toys (that also reference my youth). What I mean is, I’m now able to give him shit that I want to play with.

Case in point: for his birthday we gave him a bunch of Play-Doh (24 different colors, if you can imagine that) (even black, for the goth kids) and a collection of molds to make camping stuff (logs for the fire, hamburger, hot dog, fish, bugs, bear shitting in the woods, Unabomber). What started as an effort to engage Rowan in his new toys at his birthday party turned into me hoarding the cooler molds and colors and elbowing everyone else out of the way.

Who knew playing with Play-doh would still be so fun? And surprisingly gratifying? Tohner made a good point – with Play-Doh, you’re not really worried about the final product. It’s a temporary thing you’re creating just long enough to go, “Hey look! I made a purple spider with blue eyes!” before smashing it all together in your fist. I love doing stuff with my hands, but I’m usually working toward some end game. With the Play-doh, it is all about the experience. Would it be creepy if I bought a set for our house? I could always say it’s for when the kids visit.

Oh, and it still smells exactly the same. Even though it’s probably made in China from lead and asbestos now.

PS (unrelated) – Why is there a cartoon Napoleon Dynamite? That just seems like a bad idea all the way around.

Friday list

you don't know me but I'm your specter

James and I saw Michael McDonald a couple of months ago. Though we were close enough to easily see sweat beads on the various performers, I was unable to capture a good shot of MMcD. Everyone else would show up just fine, but he was all white. Like a ghost. Perhaps his deep, soulful voice comes from beyond?

In sort-of related news, did you know that the Doobie Brothers were on What’s Happening!!? Seems the Doobie Bros were playing at the local high school, and Raj was trying to bootleg their concert. Hijinks ensue. Episodes like this made me actually believe that might happen at my small town high school some day. If I recall, I think I sent a letter to ZZ Top asking them to play our prom. I probably don’t have to tell you–that didn’t happen. Instead, we had a Whitesnake song as our prom theme. Yeah.

Here’s a solution to getting slow walkers out of your way. Would it work in Houston where there aren’t a whole lot of bike riders? I don’t know, but I like the fact that people in grocery stores and on escalators (presumably places without bike traffic, even in Japan) get out of the way too. Maybe everyone is trained to move when a bell is rung.

I adore this series of photos. NSFW, I guess, because there’s very slight nudity (tittays) in one. A photographer recreated decades-old photos using the same people. “It’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today,” says the photographer. So wonderful to recognize the child in the adult. A good reminder to reconnect with our youthful selves. (By the way, the guy in the first photos looks like a different Michael McDonald–the one who was on MadTV.)

Mr. Mooney and the n-word

Conversation with James earlier today:

Crystal:   Hey. Mooney is at the Improv this weekend. Wanna go?
James:    Do you know if he’s using the n-word again?
Crystal:   That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Allow me to explain. I’m a big Paul Mooney fan. I didn’t get hip to his work until Chappelle’s Show. Or, I should say, I didn’t know his name until Chappelle’s show. I’ve been enjoying his work my entire life, starting with his collaborations with Richard Pryor, moving through In Living Color and then Chappelle’s Show. I recently read his memoir Black is the New White (which is partially Richard Pryor’s biography) and learned he’s had a hand in even more of the haha than I’d realized.

(side note: Did you know that, in addition to co-writing the script, Pryor was supposed to play the sheriff in Blazing Saddles? Only the producers considered him too controversial for the role and went with Cleavon Little instead? Maybe everyone knows that. I didn’t until reading Mooney’s book.)

I’ve seen Mooney perform quite a few times over the past seven or eight years. The first time I saw him was epic. It was his second set on a Saturday night. He was feeling his oats, I guess, because it was the longest I’ve ever seen a stand up comic perform. (Actually, Mooney tends to perch on the edge of a stool, so he’s more of a leaning comic than a stand up.) I can’t remember now how long he was up there – I think it approached (or maybe exceeded) two hours. We could see the red light from where we were sitting, and it was glowing for a good 30 minutes. Then the management of the club started fucking with the lights and his mic level trying to get him off stage. It was like, the more they were trying to tell him it was time to wrap it up, the more determined he was to keep going. So he kept going.

Regarding the conversation James and I had this morning: after Michael Richards (Kramer) went crazy with the n-word at a comedy club, Mooney decided he would quit saying the word completely. This might not be a big deal for some people, but Mooney used it liberally throughout his speech. Like salt on popcorn. Constant. The last time I saw him was the first time since his self-inflicted boycott, and, man, did it interrupt his flow. It seemed like he must have had a constant loop running in his brain reminding himself not to say it, and that was providing distraction from what he was doing on stage. It would be like me eradicating “fuck” from my repertoire. Doable, but at what cost to pacing?

That was a couple of years ago, so it’s probably better now. Anyway. It’s a funny thing to wonder about another human being.

UPDATE: Saw Mr. Mooney at the Improv last night. His flow, it is back.