An Otherwise Eventful Sunday Pt. II: Bonnaroo

I was well prepared both mentally and physically for this particular adventure.

I loaded the Saturn with a brand new rolling Rubbermaid cooler, a 24 pack of water, my own water thermos, a knife (in case a knife fight ensued), assorted snacks, a few handmade signs, and a dozen copies of Vagrants in Paradise. Anything less than getting into Center Roo and selling half the books would not be acceptable.

As I made the turn onto the curving road leading to the promised land, I saw a line of cars backed up. This was no surprise. However, there was no line to leave, which I found odd for a Sunday with a festival of Bonnaroo’s magnitude. While stuck in line, I put the car in park and retrieved a few books from my bag, which was wedged inside a tomato cage I had in the back seat. I kept eyes all around for walkers. Not more than eight minutes sitting in the line, a group of scraggly tie-dye folks descended down the hill soon to pass my open window.

“Hey guys, anybody interested in a funny nonfiction book by a semi-local author?” I asked, holding the book out of the window.

They all stopped and mumbled their indifference, except one guy.

“Yeah man, cool. Local like Manchester?” He asked.

“Nope, Nashville.” I said.

I quickly took note of his crystal blue crossed eyes, and acknowledged his tweaked out southern demeanor.

“My grandaddy actually owns this farm- well he done sold it, but this wa’ his land. I been comin’ here damn near e’rry year nah.” He said with his thick rural Tennessee twang.

I went along with it, which for all I knew was the truth. I was asking $15 for the book.

“Man I think I got $12. That work?” He asked.

Of course I accepted, making my first sale while I was sitting in traffic. I was stoked.

“Well hey mang find me on Facebook and check out my outdoor clothing line, Riverside Outdoor Gear it’s called.” I completely made that name up but it was something along those lines. He patted me on the shoulder as I told him I’d check it out.

His posse strolled ahead as we did our transaction, and I hopped out to grab an ice cold water for him to show my appreciation. He was much obliged, and we went on with our day. One down, eleven to go.

As I crept up the line closer and closer, my arms and face baked in the sun, I noticed a residential home with a “$5 Parking” sign in their yard. Angels, these people. They could’ve charged $20 easy, as it was mere yards away from the entrance. This was great, as the dreadful parking monkey was now off my back.

A young girl eagerly hopped off of her lawn chair to greet me as I pulled in, while her parents glistened with sweat sitting under an oak tree, raking in the easy money.

I grabbed my backpack, pulled out the rolling cooler of water bottles from my trunk, and strolled over to the entrance with no elaborate plan to get in.

I entered the gravel area where a line of about ten white tents stood for car and bag inspections. Regardless of the lengthy line to get in, this area was not congested. I casually strolled over to a young man and woman.

The man sat and the girl very blankly and unenthusiastically had me take off my bag as she unzipped and peered in.

“What’re all these books? You’re not trying to sell these are you?” She asked.

“No, no. I was going to hand them out, it’s no big deal.” I said.

She was very skeptical, as I stood there with my folded cardboard signs I wrote on that would completely go against my statement had she bothered questioning that.

“Wait. Where’s your wristband? You don’t even have a wristband.” Now she was really catching on.

“Well, I was hoping since it’s midday Sunday that I could maybe just go in?” I asked with a smile.

“Um, no, you absolutely can not.” She was far from amused.

I then went to the little trailer where a completely stoned bro sat selling weekend passes. It was a brief and useless encounter. I went back to the car to reevaluate.

It was clear I needed a bracelet. I left the cooler in my trunk, and decided to walk the opposite direction to post up and tap my wrist to the passers by.  I stood by a fire hydrant with a good pull-off area ahead, laid out a few books, and held my hardly legible sign referring to the books.

After not even fifteen minutes of waving and smiling and tapping, a pimple-faced teen was soon to cross my path.

“Hey man you leaving?” I asked.

“Yeah.” The sun reflected like a tractor beam off of this young ginger boy’s braces.

“Can I have your bracelet?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure.” He said, with a tone suggesting his brains were fried like green tomatoes.

“Do you read?” I asked.

I ended up swapping one of my books for the bracelet. Another success. Small victories were adding up quick under the punishing sun.

With that I knew I was set. The barrier was broken. With a cheerful heir, I strolled back to the car. Considering I was wearing a collared lobster shirt and striped shorts, I thought I may look a bit too familiar to security, especially given the brief time frame. I happened to have pants and a long sleeve flannel shirt, which was going to be rough in the heat, but it had to be done. I threw on my Ween hat and new clothes, stuffed about six water bottles in with the books, and was about to leave when a man who saw me on the road moments ago came up and bought a book from me.

This time I was sure to go to the security the farthest away from the first soulless girl.

I strutted up with great confidence and set my bag down, jiggling my orange Volunteer wrist band around so he’d see I was legit.

Again the question came.

“What’re all these books? You can’t sell these here.” The man said.

“Oh no I know, some guy was handing them out so I took a bunch.” I said, switching it up a bit from the first time.

“Well either way you can’t have more than ten of the same thing. We have to consider that illegal vending. Could you count them for me please?” The guy asked.

I was more than happy to, knowing I came with a dozen and sold three. I counted nine, and with that, I penetrated the nucleus of the festival with a feeling of great success. I knew my best bet would be to peddle my wares to the campers, and those gearing up to leave. Approaching people in the actual festival would likely prove difficult. Nobody wants to buy a book with all the stimulation going on 360 degrees around them. Campers, however, would be hanging loose and away from the madness.

I asked a few people along the way who declined before finding a group of greyed older men, and a couple in their thirties. There was a neon sign that read “Bar” with a Martini glass hanging on their tent pole. I smiled at one of the guys as I passed.

“Is the bar still open?” I asked in jest.

“Hell yeah it is! You want a beer?” A man who could’ve been Keith Richards’ brother answered. It was shortly after I took a seat on the grass and cracked open a Yuengling that I told them that I was trying to sell my book. After a brief discussion explaining it, four of them ponied up the dough and wanted them signed.

Dear Rick….Dear Pete…Dear Jana…” I was loving it.

“I’ll be able to say I met you when you were just a wandering Bonnaroo book salesman when you get big!” Rick said with a laugh.

“Damn right! And you can sell that signed copy for like, $15!” I said.

We shared some laughs as I gulped the final warm swig of my beer. I thanked them as I got up and decided to put book peddler mode on hold, so I could indulge in the music and sights to behold.

I caught some Margo Price, Umphrey’s McGee, and Royal Blood, who I’d never heard of, but they laid down some heavy British rock from the main stage.

I decided I would enjoy the rest of the festival and bask in the success of selling seven books and getting in for free, or rather, getting paid to be there. Determination and motivation proved successful on this endeavor, as I knew it would. Handing out water bottles to a select portion of thirsty and thankful Roo Dwellers also brought about contentment.

I was on an incredible high both literally and figuratively, especially as I had eaten next to nothing all day, and had my skull baked for many hours. I was engulfed in the festival feel.

On my way out I made half-assed attempts to sell a few more books which didn’t work, and I was fine with it. As I walked out, I made a point to wave to the girl who wouldn’t let me in initially. She was blank and perplexed. I won.

I drove westbound on 24 chasing the magnificent colored sunset, basking in recent events. I noticed strips of rubber on the side of the road that looked like black pythons glistening in the sun. My high maintained but would be brought back to reality, as I kept seeing dark and ominous signs for a gun company on what seemed to be every billboard. I was reminded of my surroundings, that of a conservative southern red state, which couldn’t have been farther from my reality. One sign read, “Yes, Silencers are Legal.” These signs all had huge pictures of different guns, with dark several word tag lines. It was a quick shift in realities.

Regardless, I was psyched to have more books out in the world. I made it home to watch the deflation of the entire city of Nashville as the Pittsburgh Penguins brought home a second consecutive Stanley Cup. It was a bitter ending to such an otherwise eventful Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Otherwise Eventful Sunday Pt. I: Mike the Pharmacist

I went to bed Saturday night as Paul the Jack of Some Trades, and woke up Sunday morning Mike the Pharmacist. (the latter has a better ring to it)

Let me explain.

While scanning the infinite wonders of Craigslist, namely the gigs section, I saw something in the Creative category that caught my eye. The title was along the lines of, “Help me win back my girlfriend.” Naturally I clicked on this.

Long story short, this desperate 30 year-old man paid me one hundred dollars, yes $100, to visit the diner where his kind-of girlfriend worked, and simply introduce myself as Mike the Pharmacist, say I’m a friend of his, and casually slip in positive things about him and nice things he’s said about her. That was all.

Of course I initially thought this was a bogus post, but when I requested an initial deposit, he did it gladly. The dude was legit.

I completely took this as a great opportunity to showcase my acting abilities, and put another feather in the cap, if you will.

I went to the downtown multi-level diner, rode the elevator to the 4th floor, and chatted with Courtney, the hostess, for all of 45 seconds. I expected her to say they weren’t together, but she was happy and chipper and made it sound like all was well. She did mention some misunderstandings and them “projecting their insecurities on each other”, but that was it. Of course it’s only logical this girl wouldn’t want to open up in grand detail to a complete stranger about her love life while she’s working.

She brought me to a table where I drank a crisp ice water pretending to wait on friends, before I told the waitress I had my times mixed up. I was sure to leave a few bucks for the water and shenanigans. I texted him and let him know the painstaking job was complete, and to let me know if there’s anything else I could do. I gave him ten minutes to respond, which he didn’t. Out to the bustling city streets I went, back in the thick of CMA Fest, only to hit the road to Bonnaroo for the next order of business.

I would find out later I, somehow, was of immeasurable assistance, and I’d never know how much I helped. He happily paid me. Mike the Pharmacist proved to be a smashing success. And then it was time to be Paul the Book Peddler.

 

Libraries Are Cooler Than You

Right now I’ve got Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man spinning in my computer, soon to be secured in my iTunes for my future listening pleasure. Death of a Ladies’ Man joins about a hundred other albums I’ve transferred via Compact Disc to my music library, thanks to gift that keeps on giving, the actual library.

You can rock your skinny jeans and scarves or flat-brim caps and Lonzo Ball sneakers all day long, but you’ll never be as legit as a library. As the old adage goes, it’s what’s in the inside that counts, not the outside- or whatever.

I was recently interviewed for a documentary on libraries whilst at the 7th Annual Gonzo Fest in Louisville, and I was reminded just how badass libraries really are. No, I’m not necessarily talking about the hush hush environment, lack of activity around you or perhaps the pungent old man in a muscle shirt and gym shorts next to you. But just consider all of the information and content stirring that might as well be alive within the library walls. Thousands of books of all kinds both in text and audio, rows and rows of free music via CD to help you drift downstream, and the plethora of FREE movies and TV shows on Digital Video Discs to capture your eyeballs and brains. A wealth of free entertainment that will help you forget the world, your job, your lame boyfriend, your debt, your dog that wakes you up multiple times throughout the night to go to the bathroom (that may or may not be specific to me) and so on. There is much knowledge to behold. And again in case you didn’t catch that it’s all FREE FREE FREE.

Just don’t forget to return them on time or you’ll wind up with a casino-sized debt like me. The library pit bosses are still on my ass about Good Will Hunting and Mrs. Doubtfire.

And don’t give me that new age rubbish that books, DVDs and CDs are out of style and value. To hell with your iPods, iPads, Kindles, MP3s, Laser Discs, Tamagotchi and so forth. It doesn’t get much more convenient than getting a seemingly endless supply of media and information for no cost, and little moving. I know how lazy us Americans are and we want our Game of Cards and House of Thrones with a half-click of a button, but come on. Libraries need more recognition for their infinite power, wisdom, and resource.

Now I use my phone and computer plenty, but you don’t need to be a slave to Apple and Verizon. Challenge yourself, and make a conscious effort to take a break from the screens and their infinite and often useless distractions. Set up a hammock and get lost in a book. The library will lend you that book, and heck, maybe even the hammock.

Not to mention that libraries are a fantastic haven to focus and work. It’s a solid place to collect your thoughts and “work from home.” If you feel cooped up, just take a stroll to your neighborhood library. No distractions from your dogs or cats or birds or frogs or children, nor temptation to pop on some Sportscenter or Price is Right “in the background.” Yeah coffee shops are okay for that too, but they won’t have any Roy Orbison CDs for you to put on your computer.

It’s time to give libraries their due, and recognize them for the quiet fortresses of stimulation they really are.

In the Louisville library interview, I was asked multiple questions, the last being do I think libraries should remain free and open to the public, or privatized and require a nominal fee. That was an absolute no-brainer. Charge the bastards an arm and a leg.

Just kidding.

It would be a sad, sad day if libraries turn to the dark side and pull such a move. We’d truly be facing the end of times. I hope that isn’t even a legitimate option, but seeing what’s transpired in recent history, anything is possible. Pigs will fly in no time. In fact they already have…

So do yourself a favor, and next time you pay your Direct TV bill, splurge on iTunes and at Barnes and Noble, finding yourself without extra spending money, remember: your neighborhood library will welcome you with open doors. (unless they’re closed)

 

 

Separating Music From Character

There’s long been debate and uncertainty around how we should feel about legendary (or not so legendary) musicians who have made some poor life decisions.

I recently read an article that brings to light character issues of iconic musicians, paralleled with their musical accomplishments and view in the public eye. It discussed people holding high praise for certain musicians while ignoring their personal wrongdoings. But here’s the thing: the praise is generally for the music, not necessarily the person. Sure it differs, but the general consensus is BECAUSE of the music, they earn the praise. Nobody would give a shit about Elvis if he didn’t make groundbreaking music. The article didn’t sit well with me, so I was compelled to write this.

It’s pretty damn hard to hate timeless music, period. Especially if you are someone heavily steeped in the music world, be it a diehard fan and/or fellow musician or whatever. Some (weirdos) like music as much as they like a cup of tea- they can take it or leave it.

BUT.

A lot of people grow close with music, and get the wind knocked out of them when they find out a particular musician they love does something bad, if not heinous. It can suck. The trouble is the gray area of what’s forgivable and what’s not.

I believe the right thing to do is to acknowledge a separation of music and character, just like church and state. It’s a bummer when you love somebody’s music and find out later they married their 13 year old cousin (looking at you Jerry Lee Lewis) or allegedly molested children (no need for a name drop there) or whatever. Musicians can do things that are awful and often times unforgivable, just like anybody else. That can and will often hinder an artist’s fan base and general outlook on that individual, and rightfully so, and if you love their music, you’re in a pickle.

Bask in the pickle.

Accept that people aren’t perfect and make mistakes. You don’t have to defend these people in court to enjoy their music. Not to mention much of what we hear are allegations, and we have little idea of the reality of said situations that can make a person, in this case a musician, “a bad person.”

This isn’t to say people should embrace or condone their behavior.

If you’re really put off by the actions of a musician you love, maybe stop buying T-shirts, concert tickets, hats, pins, buttons, cufflinks, MP3s, cassettes or whatever people get these days. Either way, you don’t have to like their character to like their music, as synonymous as the two can be.

Picture this: you’re at a wedding, or maybe a bar with your friends, and Michael Jackson plays. You love to drink and dance and be merry. Are you going to sit and protest? If you’re at a rock n’ roll club and the band plays a Stones cover, are you going to protest and sit down because Mick was a serial womanizer? Will you, hypocrite who lives to criticize and judge? Doubtful.

The “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” perception exists for a reason, folks. More often than not, music isn’t about being a boy scout/ girl scout. Lord knows these people aren’t saints otherwise they might’ve chosen the convent or monastery.

Per usual, it all boils down to individual choice. Just like every debate there ever was. The perceptions of the person. The individual. They either will be swayed or not. It can be a mental conflict, but it is what it is. Either you stop liking the music or you don’t. Either way, take comfort in knowing your opinion likely isn’t worth a dime. Just like mine.

So. Does it make you a bad person because you like music of somebody who did bad things? No and who cares. It’s about the music. Good people make good music. Good people make bad music. Bad people make bad music. Bad people make good music. That’s just the way it is. Now scram I gotta eat dinner.

Beat It On Down the Line

“I saw the Dead for the first time in St. Louis in ’94 when I was 14 years old. I almost dropped out of 8th grade after that.” I could see the LSD of days gone by in this woman’s eyes. She was slow in reaction and had a hundred yard stare when talking to me. There was no doubt she’d sat around a nitrous hose outside the drum circle a time or two. She was an aging festy-chick with clusters of dangling bracelets, a thin ethnic looking scarf, and funky earrings. She went on to discuss other arbitrary years and shows regarding different music she saw. Next to her was sleazeball of the century Missouri Todd.

Flashback about an hour earlier, Missouri Todd struts up to the bar mumbling to himself, emulating a restlessness that only cocaine and/or caffeine addicts have. He yanked out the bar chair sliding it a good four feet behind him and just stood at the bar, fidgeting and messing with his phone. He was a stumpy little businessman with the teeth of an 18th century sailor and the moxie of Bret the Hitman Hart. Upon asking for his ID he says, “wow I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.” I reiterated to him like I do many others that I HAVE to check everybody’s ID, so don’t feel special. About the same time he got to the bar, another visibly drunk goon sauntered up behind him.

Enter Brent from the Bay Area. Classic California fella with some kind of surf shop white T-shirt and slightly curved San Francisco Giants hat he got from his local Lids. His face and skin was lobster red from either the sun an/or the booze he’d had. I told him I could tell he was from California before I checked his ID and he took offense. “Man you just labeled me! Dude you totally just labeled me! Fuck you man! Fuck you!” He was saying all this with a smile and the slur of a tipsy surfer. After that it was nothing but attempted fist bumps after everything we even remotely agreed on.

One way or another the three of us started talking sports. Todd was apparently a die-hard fan of the Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tom Brady. Dude was a Grade A bandwagon asshole. Cardinals were understandable since he was a Missouri native. But the rest, I mean come on. Bay Area Brent and I gave him hell for it. Naturally Brent was a Raiders fan, to which he gave me a most proud fist bump for my respect of the people in the Black Hole.

“So where are you heading to tonight?” I asked Brent.

“Ohio, man.”

“What the hell is in Ohio?”

“Awesomeness.” Enter young girl at the end of the bar.

Bad decision lady. Immediately, the hammered halfwits diverted attention to her and there was no stopping them after that. Todd bumbled through the chairs separating them and got up closer to her. The girl was having a ball impressing the bufoons with her sports knowledge. The three of them talked Cleveland sports, mainly the Cavs and Lebron for a bit. I was waiting to jump into Browns talk had it emerged,which of course it did. We got talking about different football teams and Todd had the audacity to say that the Jaguars would WIN THE SUPER BOWL this coming season. This guy was a regular birdbrain. Not just make playoffs which is bold enough, but win the Super Bowl. Jags fans I know you have a pretty mean offense but give me a break.

The girl knew her shit and the shmucks were impressed. Todd was so impressed he offered to buy her another drink after she cashed out. “Come on live a little! You don’t have to catch that plane. Stay with us come on we’re having fuuuuun!” This was much more of a devious suggestion than it was friendly, mind you. Without a split second’s thought and understandably so she booked it from me and the bozos.

Shortly after the girl departed, Brent was next to follow, but not after he drunkenly repeated Big Lebowski lines over and over. “YER OUTTA YER ELEMENT DONNY!” He kept saying as he continued to attempt the fist bump with me. Quit making a damned fool of yourself and just go already guy.

Then it was just shmohawk Todd and I. There were others scattered around but none as interesting. In comes festy-chick who posts up next to Todd at the bar when they begin their chat. Again, Todd can’t get enough of a strange woman talking to him. He milks the shit out of it. Todd claimed he was at the same Dead show in St. Louis that same year, and went on to tell some non-sensical story of him and his uncle on some drug fueled odyssey. Whether it was true or not, they got deeper into talks of their youth.

“I did enough cocaine to kill a small cow in my early thirties.”

Exact words from Todd in regards to his late-blooming adulthood in the sense of getting married and having kids when he was nearly 40. Todd was touching her bracelets and scarves complimenting them and getting real greasy with her. But given her own seemingly greasy nature, she was into it. Eventually Janis Jr. cashed out and again Todd used his line to get her to stay. Ultimately it was a no go on her end too. Real shocker.

While driving home listening to some creole ragtime music on NPR, a man on a motorcycle came ripping out in front of me at a fork in the highway. He continued to weave his way through traffic going a hefty 75 MPH or so. He zipped through the night alongside a most majestic view of the glowing city skyline. The arch of the Gateway Bridge was lit purple and a crescent moon hung directly over the city. What a life, I thought.