Day Thirty Nine: Worry

Daily Journal

My condolences to Aaron “Ump” McCollum and family for the loss of his father, George. I met him on The Earps US tour in November 2007. George showed up for three gigs that

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The Earps with Roadie Brad at Bass Pro Shops Museum in Springfield Missouri. November 2007.

trip. Kansas City. Springfield, Missouri. Memphis. He bought us a hotel room in Springfield, which was a nice thing to do since no one showed up and we made $16. The rapper Tec 9 was also staying at the hotel, and it was obvious that his show went a lot better than ours had. The next day, George paid admission for the whole band and “Roadie Brad” to go to the Bass Pro Shops Museum in Springfield.

Today will be a shorter journal entry. I went hiking at Iroquois Park with my Meetup group last night, so I didn’t have time to work further through the Designing Your Life book, but I will get started on Chapter 3 tonight.

Deng Ming-Dao on Worry:

Worry is an addiction
That interferes with compassion.

Today’s entry is almost like taking a subject that Stoics talk about quite often and getting a Taoist opinion, which is more or less in agreement with Epictetus. Like Epictetus, Ming-Dao says, I paraphrase, that there are just too many problems outside of our control, making it impossible to address all of them. He defines worry as “concern gone compulsive”, and given some of his language, like “spiritual degeneracy” and “cancer of the emotions”, he considers worry to be a very negative thing. He say s when you meet a problem, help if it is in your power to do so. “After you have acted, withdraw and be unconcerned about it. Walk on without ever mentioning it to anybody. Then there is no worry, because there has been action.” Being unable to address all concerns and problems there would be to worry about, he advises us to take care of yourself and something good for those you meet.

Daily Stoic

Today is a lesson from Seneca on the subject of anger. I have struggled with this lesson. I have done a lot of screaming at people over the things they have done. I’m not one to cry, but I am a person who gets furious and impatient at times. Using a lesson from Seneca, Ryan Holiday says the next time you catch yourself having a fit, ask yourself “Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually relieving any of the symptoms I wish were gone?”

Here’s a video from the 6-part series with Alain de Botton called “Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness” about Seneca and anger.

I’m off to work. Enjoy your day. See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Day Twenty One: Skill

Just over two years ago, I lost everything, or so it seemed. I had already long since given up on one of my passions- writing. Writer’s block. My role as a new parent. Lack of a quiet space to do the work maybe. Experiencing no reward for writing, perhaps. I’m not sure why but I just stopped writing. Maybe those were just excuses. Back then, I had my identity and self worth tied up in my role as a bass guitarist.

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Live with The Earps at Cruisin’ Route 66 Bar in St. Louis, Missouri. 2007

Besides writing, performing in bands was the other thing I did pretty well, or at least I did it my way, and the feedback about my skill at live performance with the instrument was generally positive. I could get just about any gig I wanted, without an audition, for many years. There was pride and self-esteem in that. The band, Moonshine Millionaires, broke up in the late summer of 2014, taking $12,000 a year away from me. But it wasn’t about the money either. It was about losing doing one of the few things I did well. Without it, I was just an unskilled warehouse worker. (Until I lost that job too a month later.) Depression kicked hard as I scrounged to replace Moonshine Millionaires with something of equal or higher value, but the gigs just got worse and worse.

Interesting parable today in 365 Tao about the “Five Things”.

Zither, chess, book, painting, sword.
These symbolize classical skill.

There was once a wanderer who cared nothing for fame. Although he had many chances for position, he continued to search for teachers who could help him master five things: zither, chess, book, painting, and sword.

The zither gave him music, which expressed the soul. Chess cultivated strategy and a response to the actions of another. Books gave him academic education. Painting was the exercise of beauty and sensitivity. Sword was a means for health and defense.

One day a little boy asked the wanderer what he would do if he lost his five things. At first the wanderer was frightened, but he soon realized that his zither could not play itself, the chess board was nothing without players, a book needed a reader, brush and ink could not move on their own accord, and a sword could not be unsheathed without a hand. He realized that his cultivation was not merely for the acquisition of kills. It was a path to the innermost part of his being.

What Deng Ming-Dao seems to be saying is the objects, like pen & paper, or the bass guitar, are not important. Rather we use those objects to cultivate ourselves internally and they are just tools. I had considered the bass guitar and the pen to be tools, but perhaps I was using them with wrong aims in mind. I think I mostly played my instrument for attention and adoration, for the accomplishment of goals to be proud of, and for the love and respect I did not receive while playing other roles in my life.

Rather, what if these instruments were used as vehicles for inner cultivation?

  • Expression of the soul
  • Strategy & response to the actions of others
  • Academic education
  • Exercise of beauty and sensitivity
  • Health & defense

What are my “five things”? I’m not sure yet. I can name at least three, the pen, the guitar and books. What about health and defense? What about strategy?

So even though my bass guitar is now stashed in my closet after 20 years of playing in bands and I have no gigs on the calendar anymore, it doesn’t matter. I have already cultivated the skills of expression, which I do not lose if I lose the tool, because it is internalized. The innermost part of my being.

Writing a Book:

One of my goals for 2017 is to write a book. I decided to use Published: The Proven Path From Blank Page To Published Author by Chandler Bolt for no reason other than I received a subscriber email from him announcing this book had come out, it was free with Kindle Unlimited, and it seemed like it might work out for me. After all, it’s a “proven path”.

Step One- “Look for the Why”, says Chandler Bolt.

End Goal: The level of success I’m aiming to achieve with my first book is to have a book available for download on Amazon and at least 200 people buy it, and have another item on the merch table that is kind of a novelty if I play in a band again in the future (and I probably will).

Purpose: My purpose for writing my first book is to share my story of rebounding from total collapse of my personal life as a sort of ‘self experimentation’ story.

Per his instructions, I downloaded and signed his Self Publishing School “Contract with Myself”, making a commitment of 1 hour/day of focused work to write and publish a book in the next three months.

I also did the “Free-Write Idea Dump” per his instructions.

We will see how this goes.

See ya tomorrow.
B.G.

Day Nineteen: Initiative

Today is actually January 22nd. I’m learning so far that I am unable to blog daily, but I am able to carry around a composition book where I make notes throughout the day, and in the morning when I am going through my readings and planning for the day. From there, I can go back in and type from the notes. When I can catch a 1-2 hour block, I can get to the computer and type from the notes. So far, it’s rather efficient, but getting several days behind stresses me out a little. I learned this from doing National Novel Writing Month several years ago. You can get a little behind and be okay, but once you are about a week behind, it’s really hard to catch up. I am getting a pretty good handle of my time management, but I will tweak my schedule some more.

I’m really trying to do quite a lot to get my life in order, and there is much work to be done, with all the goals I’ve set for 2017, but I think I’m doing pretty good so far.

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Jeff Dahl: An early mentor, first via mail correspondence in the 1990s and later as a member of his band 2000-2008.

As I mentioned earlier, I was going to discuss mentors, which the dictionary defines as “experienced and trusted advisors”. I was recently listening to the audiobook version of “Mastery” by Robert Greene  and he discusses in the book that having a mentor is important for the mastery of anything. In fact, as I have been working through the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. Ryan apprenticed under Robert Greene from the age of 19.

When I was a teenager, I was a budding guitar player who was not quite “good enough” during the tail end of the hard rock/metal reign on MTV. I’ve never been one to handle rejection well, believe me, and I was replaced by a much better guitar player in a garage band I had for a while during high school. The other guy was more naturally talented, had worked harder learning the “shredder” style of guitar, and despite how much I tried to practice, I never could get a handle on doing much more than power chords, barre chords, and never seemed to have the patience and ability to figure out entire songs note-for-note from what little resources we had in pre-internet days: guitar tablature in guitar magazines. I was a voracious reader of anything rock n roll history, and I read about the New York Dolls in the The Illustrated “New Musical Express” Encyclopedia of Rock, an old book my friend found at a yard sale and gave to me, which became my bible of classic rock knowledge. I had interest in similar acts such as David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Mott the Hoople, Slade, T-Rex, etc.

I managed to get a cassette copy of “Lipstick Killers” by New York Dolls, released by ROIR (Reach Out International Records). From that cassette, I learned to be a real guitar player. The material wasn’t difficult to learn by ear and play along with the recording. At that point, I became a Johnny Thunders disciple. Shortly after getting that cassette, I purchased a VHS of miscellaneous New York Dolls video footage from one of the bootleg tape traders who advertised in one of the music magazines and saw the clip of New York Dolls on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. The performance of Johnny Thunders on that show was the original prototype for my stage attitude and style and it always stayed with me, even 20 years later.

Shortly after that, I immersed myself in old glam rock from the early 70s and punk rock from the late 70s, particularly the American punk rock, like Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell & The Voidoids. I began buying issues of the punk rock fanzine from San Francisco called Maximum Rock n Roll Magazine, which were on sale at Ear-X-tacy Records in Louisville, and discovered there was an entire scene and network of pre-punk and “punk rock n roll” preservationists out there in the world. I saw an advertisement in Maximum Rock n Roll for music by Jeff Dahl for sale via mail order. I ordered his first three albums directly from cassette. The basic facts I knew:

  • He was from a band called Angry Samoans and another band called Powertrip.
  • He had played with Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys.
  • He was in an early 80s band called Vox Pop with members of The Germs and 45 Grave.
  • He played in the style of Dead Boys, New York Dolls, and Iggy & The Stooges.
  • He was supposedly big in Europe, and kind of an unknown in the U.S.

I was a little surprised to receive, along with the music I ordered from him on cassette and CD, personalized typewritten notes signed by him, along with a catalog of every album he had available, along with other similar acts he carried as a mail order distributor.

After graduation, I moved to Arizona, and discovered that he lived outside of Phoenix. We spoke on the phone, talking about music and records. In 2000, I was the first recruit in a new “Jeff Dahl is back!” band he was forming.

From him, I learned how rehearsals were handled, how records were made and released, how publishing was done, and how shows were booked. Much of that learning was actually applied with The Earps in getting our record deal and doing DIY tours in the US. Looking back, my relationship with Jeff Dahl really was an apprenticeship.

Later on, I worked with Ricky Rat from Thee Trash Brats after he moved to Indianapolis from Detroit. During his introduction of me to his much younger new girlfriend, he explained to her that Jeff Dahl had been a big catalyst bringing all the punk rock n roll bands together as a national network, showcasing them every year at the Desert Trash Blast in Arizona. I quote Ricky, to the best of my memory, in explaining to her that “Jeff Dahl found a niche in Europe following the death of Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, who were very popular in Europe. He filled the void for the fans who still wanted to hear that kind of music.” Later on, Scott Luallen from Nine Pound Hammer told me “Jeff Dahl was a GOD in Europe for about 10 years.” When I played with Jeff, we were a local band in the Arizona punk rock scene, aside from some shows we did in Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Video of my last performance with Jeff Dahl on February 23, 2008:

The Jeff Dahl Band disbanded following Jeff Dahl’s relocation to Hawaii. Before he left, we released “Back to Monkey City” on Steel Cage Records, which you can purchase here on Amazon. The album had a brief review written by David Fricke in “Fricke’s Picks” in Issue 1066 of Rolling Stone (November 27, 2008)

During my years of playing music, I had many mentors, some very skilled people I learned from, whose lessons are still useful today. Some were almost like deities (either living or dead) I had never met, others were right there with me on the stage, and others just wrote some books I read over and over.

Today, I have different mentors to guide me through the difficult times, problems & issues, and the trials of midlife. Some are the big folk heroes of world religions, like The Buddha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu. Others are historic western thinkers and philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, and more modern spiritual writers like Thomas Merton, Pema Chodryn, Jack Kornfield, Wayne Dyer, and Eckhart Tolle. The various authors of books I am reading to guide me through this year, down to Joe Zarantonello at the Thursday night meditation group at Loose Leaf Hollow.

Deng Ming-Dao on Initiative

Key points:

  • The world is a storm of myriad realities, and we cannot allow ourselves to be swept into this vortex. To do so, we become lost and lose our center.
  • Action must be guided by intellect and experience.
  • We learn from teachers, elders, and others.
  • We must test what we learn in the world.
  • We need to have both meditation and theoretical knowledge to be wise.
  • Our basis for initiative is: Wisdom, Courage, Timing, Perseverance.
  • We must burn clean, leaving no bad ramifications or lingering traces. A poor act leaves destruction, resentment and untidiness.

Much of today’s entry reminds me of the Joseph Campbell monomyth, or “hero’s journey”. Supernatural Aid. Meeting with the Mentor.

The Daily Stoic:

Our fortune changes. We may have lived well and lost everything, and got it all back. (Comparing this to the earlier Taoist idea that all life is destruction and regrowth, over & over again, it is very similar. Same idea as the hero’s journey too!)

The Stoics say:

One thing always remains.
Our freedom of choice.
Both big picture and small picture.

Tomorrow, I will discuss conquering laziness and what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” in creating any kind of art or project.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Seven: Forbearance

Last night, I arrived at “Chateau Fairmonte”, which is a nickname for the home of Kevin “Hotwheels” McGregor, given to the place by his wife.

While I was there I recorded an interview with him.

 

 

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The Earps pre-show rehearsal on January 6, 2017.

During the interview, McGregor mentioned that he had read the blog. He said that while he agreed with most of the content, he disagreed that there were every any competition between him and Aaron “Ump” McCollum for power in the band, and I may have misinterpreted the dynamic of their relationship.

As writer Harry Crews once said in an interview, “The only world I know is the one I see.”

Yesterday, I briefly entertained some remorse for posting about my assessment of our inter-band family dysfunction, but one must remember: Without tension, conflict, drama, and chaos, you don’t really have a story to tell. I have no desire to gloss over the issues, or forget that they ever happened.

“No man can walk out on his own story.”
-The Spirit of the West, in the movie Rango.


Vacation Diary:

  • Went hiking with Frank & Sharon Labor, the husband and wife bandmates in Labor Party and Battered Suitcases, at the Dreamy Draw Park hiking trail. 1.25 miles.
  • Brunch at Aunt Chilada’s in Phoenix. Mexican Eggs Benedict with Spicy Bloody Mary. It was okay. Not great.
  • Visit to Mike Bolenbach at Fullwell Studio near the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Mike was the recording studio engineer for all albums made by The Earps, and also mastered the EP released by my Kentucky country/rock band Moonshine Millionaires. His most famous client: Alice Cooper. Approximately 45 minutes of catching up on his newest equipment, took a guided tour of his living room, with its antique analog tape machines, and met his two assistant engineers.

Artic breath coils the mountain,
Rattling the forest’s bones.
Raindrops cling to branches:
Jewelled adornment flung to Earth.
-Deng Ming-Dao

A key message in Taoism is that one must live in harmony with nature, instead of fighting to have power over nature, which is an American thing. Today, Deng Ming-Dao discusses how trees lose their leaves in the winter, enduring storms, but standing through the winter to become adorned with the beauty that spring brings to them. Like the trees, we should stay true to our inner nature. As he says, “It is with this power that they withstand both the vicissitudes and adornment of life, for neither bad fortune nor good fortune will alter what they are.”

As a veteran of several consecutive volatile relationships with bad endings and one who has suffered losses in career and finances, like just about everyone else, the message I took away from the book today is that winter ends, things get good again, then winter comes back, and so on. Whether good things, or bad things are happening doesn’t change your inner nature.

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying God. It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to God’s creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.”
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 
Some Exercises in Stoic Thinking:

Yesterday, I ended the blog post with a Ryan Holiday quote consisting of questions to ask yourself for the sake of self knowledge.

Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?


Unimportant things I have chased:

  • The pursuit of pointless entertainment to escape from boredom.
  • Watching too much television.
  • Engaging in political debates on social media.

Mimicking the wrong influences:

  • Living the hard drinking lifestyle associated with rock n roll.
  • Getting involved in endeavors that are not a good fit for me just to get approval from someone else.
  • Taking and using bad advice.

Disappointing paths:

  • A few bands I’ve been really excited about being involved in have failed.
  • Most of my day jobs have been disappointing paths. Dead end. Low pay. Hostile work environments.

Unfulfilling paths:

  • Taking band gigs where I didn’t like the material, the band wasn’t good, or staying in bands long after it was pointless to continue and I should have started something new instead.
  • Call center jobs.

Nonexistent paths:

  • Didn’t pursue my writing aspirations like I feel I should have.
  • Should have kept journals and I didn’t.
  • Didn’t develop career skills and education.

Tomorrow, I fly home from Phoenix.

Today, I realized that while I live an isolated existence in rural Kentucky with few neighbors or friends, I was, or am, somebody in Phoenix. This is neither bad or good. You can choose your perspective of any situation. You can choose to call it “loneliness” or “solitude”.

I choose to call it solitude.

See ya tomorrow.
B.G.

Theirs is the forbearance of being true to their inner natures. It is with this power that they withstand both the vicissitudes and adornment of life, for neither bad fortune nor good fortune will alter what they are. We should be the same way . We may have great fortune or bad, but we should patiently bear both. No matter what , we must always be true to our inner selves.
-Deng Ming-Dao

Day Six: Emerging

Thunder and rain at night.
Growth comes with a shock.
Expression and duration
Appear in the first moment.

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“Things cannot remain in stillness forever. Winter storms may destroy things, but they also prepare the way for life. If things are swept away, it is appropriate . There must be an opportunity for new living things to emerge and begin their own cycle.”
-Deng Ming-Dao, Chapter 6, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

“Nature doesn’t create storms that never end.”
-Dr. Carl Totton, Psy.D.,

What’s This Tao All About podcast

On Wednesday night, I visited the home of Kevin “Hotwheels” McGregor, frontman of my former cowpunk band, The Earps. He lives in a Phoenix neighborhood off 26th Street & Indian School Road, in a small WWII-era ranch house.

Formerly the “band house”, with all the ramen noodles, cheap canned beer, and party girls coming in and out as you can probably imagine, I hadn’t been back to the place since sometime in 2009 or 2010. The home has been completely redecorated since Kevin, somewhat of a philandering bad boy, took a wife and started a family. His 7 month old infant daughter was sleeping in a crib in the family room.

As Hunter S. Thompson said, “It was weird, Bubba. I was there.”

It was almost hard to believe there had once been great tensions between Kevin and me, usually over band business. He would cancel shows last minute, pissing off promoters, who screamed at me, and I would have meltdowns about it. Not to mention, my own habits, being either drunk or hungover at all times, depressed and lazy, and getting in trouble with his neighbors for being shitfaced in the backyard, shooting beer cans with a BB guns at inappropriate times: 2AM on a weeknight, for example.

My observation of the internal personality dynamics between the members of the “classic” lineup of The Earps (the version of the band that released albums, toured, and got press) went something like this:

  • Kevin and I were pretty good friends, but subject to arguments over band business and very different ideas about ethics. Luckily, neither of us are really fighters.
  • Kevin and Aaron “Ump” McCollum could usually be civil but seemed to butt heads over which one of them was in the leadership role. In hindsight, it wasn’t bad to have two Type As in the band, as long as they stayed in the roles that best suited their talents and abilities. For the most part, this worked well, but things ended badly when Ump left the band. I always sensed a competitive relationship between the two of them.
  • Drummer Marvelous Matt Maverick and I did not get along at all. Never understand why, exactly. Probably the only musician in my music career that I never got along with. It seemed as if he was envious of my strengths and exploited my many weaknesses and tried to bully me, which I didn’t respond to in a “water off a duck’s back” kind of way. Hard to say. (I was surprised, studying the enneagram years later, Matt and I are actually a very similar personality type. Both of us have freedom as a core motivation. While I lean toward “loyalty” to friends and my own beliefs and ideas, Matt leans toward power seeking, but isn’t really a power type all the way. ) Whatever may be said, and we have been estranged for many years, Matt and I were probably one of the best rhythm sections of any band I’ve ever been in.
  • Kevin and Matt were the founding members. Being a bit younger than the rest of us, Matt seemed to be Kevin’s bratty little brother in a way. This relationship was important for diplomacy and Kevin’s referee role between Matt and me.
  • Ump and I were very close friends, with hardly a disagreement between us. Without that bond, either one or both of us would have probably quit the band much earlier and we wouldn’t have been able to do all the cool things we did.
  • Matt didn’t seem to like Ump, who seemed completely indifferent to Matt.

The Earps were a delicate balance of power and the unity was very fragile. What we had were a group of mediocre players who were almost completely useless as individual musicians, but together could blow bands of more talented individuals off the stage. Honestly, every single member of the band was egotistical and selfish in some way, so there was never a shortage of drama.

At this time, Kevin is the only remaining member of The Earps but the band, at least in name, is still actively preserving the legacy, makes me happy in some weird way.

Odd twist to the story:

The Earps had begun as a ripoff band, as many bands do begin, and if anyone tells you any different, they are probably either lying or their band sucks. The band copied from, and even blatantly ripped off at times: Redneck Girlfriend from Seattle, and Nine Pound Hammer from Kentucky. We covered at least five Nine Pound Hammer songs in the early days, also covering their versions of cover songs too.

In 2015, I was asked to join Nine Pound Hammer.

Nine Pound Hammer knew about me from The Earps video “I Love Las Vegas” and my work with Jeff Dahl. I was asked to join on the spot. I remembered how to play half the Nine Pound Hammer setlist from doing those songs with The Earps.

I played with Nine Pound Hammer at the Star Bar in Atlanta and again at PKs in Carbondale, Illinois. The planned summer 2016 Europe tour never happened, which was disappointing. I was dismissed from the band in the fall of 2016 when the old bass player, Mark Hendricks wanted back in. That was fine by me. I may be asked to perform with them again in future. Who knows.

I will be making a guest appearance with the current version of The Earps tonight at Chopper John’s in Phoenix.

“Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?”
-Ryan Holiday, Where, Who, What, and Why, Daily Stoic

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll answer that in tomorrow’s post.

Peace.

B.G.