If you missed Nicole Marie’s post on Tuesday, I’d recommend going back and giving it a read. It was a highly personal, and very powerful piece of poetry that was well-deserving of the attention that it received.
Of Me speaks about negative self perception of body image from a young woman’s perspective. It carries a universal theme, and it’s a demon that a lot of people have either dealt with in the past, or are still currently battling.
I’ve read a lot of heavy-topic articles around the web, but this was the first time I ever read something that actually moved me to tears.
It was the closing stanza that really poked me:
I am, she says, a well-wrapped box of weeds and good intentions, worn at the seams – no card attached. But she will never learn the weight of her own gravity; she will never see the blue of the sky, if she never raises her eyes to it.
A dude by the name of Rich then followed up with an incredibly thoughtful interpretation of those two beautiful lines:
It speaks to me because most of us view weeds as bad. but dandelions are beautiful weeds. There are many colorful weeds along highways. and what of the weed itself? It’s just following nature, growing, absorbing water and CO2 like a rose or a holly or mums. So it’s got the same good intentions as those other, more appreciated plants, and it cleans the air for humans, just like the more beautiful flowers. It isn’t always as pretty, but it does the same things for the balance of nature. Good intentions.
The insight that Rich provided is reflective of my own life philosophy.
I think any attempt to bully someone into accepting some version of “ideal” is actually an attempt to mask an insecurity or fear of the aggressor. And by consequence, all it does is create an insecurity in an otherwise secure person. In other words, nobody is born into this world with a negative self-perception; it’s a learned behavior.
That critical voice in your head is not your own. Figure out who’s voice it is and dispel it.
Recognize that you are an asset as you are; utilize your own greatest strengths, and maintain your free-spiritedness and free-thinking mindset. Allow your pockets of peace to grow and expand until they completely fill you. We all have something unique and important to contribute, regardless of anything said contrarily.
Keep admiring your authenticity, and become the eye of the beholder. If you can maintain that mindset, you might not ever have to look into another mirror again to confirm it. It was a courageous and fantastic piece that you wrote, Nicole Marie.
Chin square to the ground at all times. Salute.
- Meeting Adjourned, Chowderheads \m/
Tomorrow is the last day to submit your Movember Mustaches before the contest ends. Click here to visit the contest post. I’ll be announcing the winners here on Saturday Morning, and I might even break down and do a VIDEO drawing. Yes! \m/ In the meantime, please donate a couple of bucks to the Movember Cause if you can. Even a small donation would be greatly appreciated.
Click the Banner for More of Nicole Marie
Nicole MarieClick the image to zoom *a normal text format can be viewed at the bottom of the page for easier reading This poem was a hard one for me, but so very, very easy to write. I have questioned my own size and shape since I was thirteen years old. After a school nurse was disappointed with my weigh-in, I went home and buried my face in my mother’s chest and wondered what I was “supposed” to look like. Too short, too tall, too thin, too wide. I drink and I eat sweets, but not a moment goes by without me questioning my shape and my own self worth along with it; these thoughts are a plague to those struggling with self esteem issues, from the time they climb out of bed to the moment they undress at night. And while each day is a struggle, I have managed to find small pockets of peace within myself. We are all different, and we are all beautiful in our own way. Who wants to look like everyone else? What a boring world we would be living in. I try daily to remind myself of all the other things I like about me.To all those others sailing along in my boat: take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, and make the mirror your new best friend. After all, confidence is sexy.A huge THANK YOU to Adam of Chowderhead for allowing me to cover something I am so very passionate about, on his amazing blog! xoxo, NM Text format
such rough patchwork
on such a young thing,
no glass smooth flesh
just marble valleys
on a pale pink landscape.
those smiling lines on her back
aren’t the wings of a butterfly,
those glowing highways
on her thighs
don’t twist with assurance.
a real life caricature
all lowered brow, all rising forehead,
the living reflection
of a fun house mirror
she looks away as she dresses.
in a wavering cave
the elements get in easily here,
she hides her breath
until the flooding stops.
when the roadway
is littered with flaws,
she only trips
over the rubble.
all is wrapped in silence
when she wakes,
eyes shut tight
no shedding litters
the bedroom floor.
how can she grow
when her sight
is a fogged mirror,
when words fall so hard
from a slapping screen door?
that soft skin,
gathered like wrinkled blankets
beneath each arm,
it is not a sign of prosperity,
she does not raise her chin.
no other is in want
of a hard bruised shook up
stretch of pale and bone
holding some view of the world
in her wide-knuckled grasp.
i am, she says,
a well-wrapped box
of weeds and good intentions,
worn at the seams,
no card attached.
but she will never learn
the weight of her own gravity,
she will never see
the blue of the sky
if she never raises her eyes to it.
I admire the sheer, brutal honesty in this piece. I didn’t ask for anything specific when I originally contacted Nicole Marie, she just did what she does. I was taken aback, and thought it was a beautifully written, and really great piece of reflective poetry – all of it with a glimmer of hope at the end. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a mediator. Thanks for your contribution, NM. \m/
For more Nicole Marie, click the banner below
- Chowderhead Interviews Lil’ Ol’ Me (mikecalahan.wordpress.com)
- Why Girls Shouldn’t Let The Thigh Gap Trend Leave Gaps In Their Self Esteem (wibw.com)
- Beyond the Pale (vernacularisms.com)
If you’re not familiar with the name Mike Calahan, you’re probably living on a free-floating sheet of ice somewhere in the Arctic Circle. And if that’s the case, call your local cable company, get the Wi-Fi hooked up, and tune in next Tuesday for an opportunity to dive helmet-head first into the genetically-enhanced grey matter of the author behind the blog, B.L.O.G.
It’s a bit redundant, I know. But that’s exactly what makes him a literary genius.
I originally booked Mike for a luxurious, all-inclusive stay here at the Chowderhead Headquarters for last weekend, but unfortunately, he was already committed to some hairspray convention out in Tucson. We’re now set to square off this weekend for a one-on-one showdown.
Designer brand mouse. Collared shirts and ties. The sleekest pair of black frame glasses west of the Mississippi…
I might be in over my head.
See you Tuesday.
- Honor thy comb and thy hair gel, Chowderheads \m/
**If you have questions that you’d like me to ask Mike, drop a line in the comments and I’ll be sure to work ‘em in.
- Because I Haven’t Got the Legs for Dancing (tipsylit.com)
- Paranormal Housekeeping (thechowderhead.com)
- If you had 5 minutes to talk to a Dung Beetle, what would you say? (longawkwardpause.wordpress.com)
**In case you missed the introduction to this whole mess that I’m subjecting myself to, be sure to read here first: Chowderhead’s Official Sleep Deprivation Olympic Challenge.**
Well, Day 1 of the challenge began and ended with only a few minor burps, but all in all, things are going pretty smoothly.
It’s important to note:
I haven’t officially been awake for twenty four hours because I accidentally fell asleep during the first hour while watching an episode of The Real Housewives of some posh, tropical county. Shortly after that I slipped on a bar of soap in the shower and hit my head on the soap tray.
I still don’t really know exactly how long I was out for..
However, as the early hours of this study peel off the clock, I’m starting to feel like sleep is just an overrated, productivity-killing waste of time. I mean, how the hell are we supposed to advance as a society when everybody’s larding around for eight hours everyday?
I intend to take full advantage of those additional eight hours each night by catching up on a few chores that I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile.
Summary of Events, Accomplishments, and Other Stuff from Day 1: Continue reading
Author’s Note: I’d like to apologize for any mistreatment and/or agony caused by the profuse usage of capital letters during Sergeant Gunnery’s boot camp tirade. Sadly, the Sarge couldn’t make it today because he is now a semi-permanent fixture on my garage ceiling — courtesy of eight rolls of duct tape. Hoo-ah.
If there were a scientific method for measuring and ranking all the things that suck in this world, car shopping would probably fall somewhere between getting shot in the groin with a potato-launcher, and dealing with a bout of moderate to severe Seafood Poisoning.
Unfortunately, owning a car is a necessity for people like me, and every few years I find myself in the same pinch at the local motor mall.
Looking for a car isn’t the hard part. In essence, it’s actually not all that different from putting a fridge on layaway. The part that makes it less desirable than a spud to the hangers is when any of the following semi-fictional bullshit-artists enter the equation:
- Jerry Flannigan aka “The Dice Man”
- Ron Wystromski aka “Big Cheddar”
- Dick McGiven aka “The Shark”
- Ed O’Mallory aka “Fast Eddie”
From that point on it’s nothing but a high-pressure hassle.
Walking through a car dealership is like hiking through the desert with a piece of rotting meat tied to your back. From the moment I pull into a lot, there’s always some greasy sales buzzard wanting to shake my hand before I can put my foot on the blacktop. After introductions, I’m getting forcefully shoved past the econo-car section of the lot, and tossed into a pile of Corvettes, Cadillacs and Monster Trucks.
Meanwhile, there sits a tiny, imaginary man in my head, behind a xylophone, frantically playing an ambiguous tune. It’s a circus melody that perfectly captures the stress and confusion of the moment.
Many people feel the same way about the whole experience as I do. However, they go about preparing for it the wrong way. Most folks look to generic buying guides like Consumer Reports or the Suze Orman Show for tips and strategies on how to buy a car. This advice is shoddy, at best. Neither of these pop-resources highlight that being approached by a haggling salesman is an Act of War.
If you wanna avoid the runaround and get the most bang for your buck, car shopping requires a tactical, military-like approach. Hopefully you’ve already completed Tuesday’s Basic Training. You’re gonna need it.
Let me break it down by operation.
Operation 1: Reconnaissance
Begin by surveying the dealership for a few days with a pair of binoculars from across the street. Behind a bush. Determine which day is staffed with the fewest amount of Sales Pests. Identify a breach area. Keep a log sheet of your observations. Take pictures if you can, and carry an infrared lens.
Operation 2: Infiltrate the Enemy Establishment
After the surveillance operation, enter the lot at the identified breach area, and park as far away from the sales office as possible. Stealth is key. Use the vehicles in the lot to shield yourself. Stay low to the ground. Remember to camouflage: sweat pants and a dirty T-shirt with a Budweiser logo on it. You’ll be hard to spot if you look poor.
Operation 3: Create a Tactical Diversion
You will eventually be targeted. Remain calm. The key at this stage is to create a Tactical Diversion that will delay and/or weaken the offensive strategy of the oncoming insurgent. Note: the following tactics are battle-tested, but may lead to a brief jail stint if executed poorly.
Choose from the following list of Diversions based on your scenario:
- Parking Lot Tag – When the Sales Pest has captured you for introductions, immediately initiate a game of parking lot tag by firmly tapping him on the chest and yelling out:”Tag, you’re it!” If he doesn’t give chase, insult his mother.
- Cops and Robbers (or Cowboys and Indians) – This tactic is also childish. But who gives a fuck. Integrate a lot of somersaults and barrel rolls on the pavement into your evasive routine.
- Panic Button Hand Grenade – Request a set of keys for a vehicle. Once you receive the keypad, hit the panic alarm button and launch it grenade-style deep within the enemy compound.
- No Speaky English – If you’re not confident in executing any of the above tactics, use language as a sales barrier.
Operation 4: Identify Target Vehicle
While your Sales Pest is trying to catch his breath, and/or bent over a car, puking his lungs out, survey the enemy compound and identify the target vehicle for a test drive. Make sure it’s a Ford. And make sure it’s not Gold or Burgundy.
Operation 5: Highway Storm
After you’ve targeted a vehicle to test drive, request the keys. Bring your Salesperson. If he politely declines, try softening him up by applying reverse sales tactics: place your hand on his shoulder and ask about his beer league softball career.
After he’s in the vehicle and buckled up, put the pedal to the metal. Really open up the engine during your test drive. Do things to the target vehicle that you wouldn’t do with your current vehicle; brake torquing, neutral slamming, red-lining – get a feel for the beast.
If the salesman shits the seat, Abort Mission.
Operation 6: Negotiate Hostage Situation
At this stage, a hostage situation could mean one of two things:
1.). You’ve landed yourself in the sales office and are negotiating the price of a car.
2.). You’ve landed yourself in jail and are negotiating the terms of your release with a lawyer through a piece of bulletproof glass.
We’ll concentrate on the first one.
This is your opportunity to put the hammer down. At this point, the enemy should be showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress. Use these symptoms to your advantage. Make a lot of sudden, jerky movements, and drop things on the floor, like a stapler, to create loud noises. If that doesn’t work, try a computer monitor. This will keep the enemy in a vulnerable, defensive state of mind.
If executed properly, he’ll do whatever it takes to get you the fuck out of his office. When he’s cowering, immediately submit a low-ball offer on the Target Vehicle. Hold eye contact. After he prints a contract at the newly negotiated (low-ball) price, illegibly sign on the dotted line. Do not shake hands, and do not turn your back to him while exiting the cell. Before fully carrying out your exit plan, bark. Like a dog. Do it with passion and fury.
While he’s under the desk, make your break at full sprint.
Eat my Pants, Suze Orman.
What’s the battle plan when you go car shopping? Please share your funny stories!
-Happy Blogging, Private First Class \m/
- Car salesman brothers guilty of fraud (modbee.com)
- Bucks Blog: What I Learned the Hard Way About Leasing a Car (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
If you’re not tripping over an autograph line of rabid followers of your blog right now, I think I know the reason(s) why. I know what you’re thinking, “sounds kind of uppity coming from someone with less than 200 followers”. Don’t worry, I’ll get around to reading this myself too, eventually.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the whole scene, to my credit, I’m a fast learner and a close observer of people and their habits. And hot chicks. Throughout my travels, I’ve noticed a lot of stuff that us bloggers do which I believe is counterintuitive to acquiring and maintaining a fan base — providing that this happens to be one of your goals. That is what you want, isn’t it? The debate goes on…
Allow me to break down my Eureka moment for you.
The way I see it is that everything you’ll ever come across on a blogging site – regardless of what platform you use — falls somewhere along a continuum that is anchored by two different stylistic approaches.
At one end of the spectrum is what I call the Art Blog, which is more or less an exhibit; and the second type is what I call a Conversational Blog, which is used for exactly that — starting conversations. It’s difficult to distinguish the two from each other at first glance; however, a quick skim of any blog will reveal the author‘s motivation for creating his or her content.
Once you become familiar with this concept (that I invented just now), you’ll not only realize where your blog falls along the continuum, you’ll also understand what areas you may be lacking in. Hopefully you’ll be able to increase your following by making the necessary adjustments. Keep in mind that most blogs fall somewhere between these two styles. Let’s delve deeper.
Dorothy, step forward into the world of Technicolor…
The Art Blog
The majority of posts found on an Art Blog are exactly that — works of Art. Compositions are shared for the sole purpose of being observed and appreciated. Art Blogs are the poets, stream of consciousness writers, story-tellers, comic-strip artists, etc. Successful Art Blogs usually have a lot of likes, though they normally lack any significant interaction beyond that. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly great piece, many will drop an appreciative comment, but the conversation abruptly tails off at “Great job!” Really, what else can be said? Again, whatever was posted was meant to be looked at, not hashed up and down.
Art Blogs are like museums. When visiting one, the guest usually strolls about casually, looks around, stops, stares, maybe sits for a minute, contemplates, wanders off, and eventually leaves with a sense of appreciation for whatever was on display. It’s rare to happen upon a conversation during a visit. It’s not the type of setting that really promotes “mingling” with random strangers. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. Art lovers talk art, but the displays are usually designed to stir the emotions of the observer on a personal level. Plus, most pieces are open for wide interpretation – like a mangled ball of steel, for instance.
Writers of Art Blogs are probably aware of what they are already. They’ve constructed this type of setting for exactly the reasons listed. Most authors are either content with creating pieces to be appreciated, or use their blog strictly as a medium for online-journaling. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many will grow large followings based on their commitment to producing high-quality, artful content.
The Conversational Blog
On the flip side is the Conversational Blog. Content found on this type of page is constructed with the intention of promoting interaction with and among readers. The author usually bases his or her posts on topics that are meant to be viewed by a larger audience by comparison. Topics can often times be controversial in nature, and/or are emotionally-charged. A crafty author of one always leaves the piece open-ended by the end. If executed well, the article will continue to be expanded in the comment section by other readers – engaged readers. Write that down. I just wrote it down too. Wait a second, this is confusing now…
Conversational Blogs also incorporate other bloggers into their posts and/or pages. They’re not only excellent networkers, but also good cultivators of friendly “blog neighborhoods” (bloggerhoods? Hmm, I like that…) within the bigger sphere. Inviting guest bloggers and contributors, dual-posting, and reblogging are all tools that they use to help solidify and grow their audiences. By incorporating these tools and techniques into their pages, they’re not only promoting themselves, they’re also practicing good “PR” . By doing so, they increase the likelihood of future interaction with their fan base.
This type of approach doesn’t require a particular format or genre. Conversational blogs incorporate a wide variety of content. News, politics, random humor, medicine – whatever — the possibilities are endless. However, the goal is always the same — to pose or imply questions that elicit responses with the intention of opening a dialogue.
Cultivating a Fan Base
This may come as a surprise to some, but there are a lot of folks out there that want to engage with you. The challenge is to attract them and build a relationship from there.
When someone takes the time to read through one of your posts, don’t just thank them for the visit, seize the opportunity and speak. There are some interesting characters out there (like me) that are frothing to spar, share a story, or provide a laugh. Why pass on an opportunity that you’ve tried so hard to cultivate? By going into social-phoebe mode, you’re only setting yourself back and creating more work.
A post a day is difficult to do – especially when nobody’s reading.
When you’re hopping around and looking for a conversation, you’ll find that some will oblige, and others will decline. It’s worth a shot either way. After all, growing a following is based not only on consistently producing interesting content, it’s also about being likable. Charming is the word I prefer.
People are smart enough to pick up on sincerity, despite the fact that many operate through a persona. They also know whether you appreciate them or not, and it’s up to you to convey that.
More Free Tips
- Shtick ‘em Up – Most bloggers have a shtick. If you’re one of them, ask yourself if it’s a concept that will limit your writing, long-term. Personally, I consider this question daily. I may be limiting myself in the long-run. Don’t place limitations on your blog. It’s hard enough as it is. Variety is the spice of life, or something like that…
- Good Writing vs. Good Blogging – Being an excellent writer is one thing. Being an excellent blogger is something different all together. Consider this article. Where do you fall within the spectrum? Have your efforts been fruitful? Again, ask yourself if what you write about is something that an audience would want to engage in.
- Brevity is Key – There’s nothing that deters me as a reader more than an extremely lengthy post. I think I speak for most when I say this, but I don’t want to read a three thousand word submission. Ever. I hate books, and three thousand words is getting close to a book. Succinct and effective is the key. Get to the point, make it a good one.
- Quality, Not Quantity – If you’re in a hurry to post something daily, you might want to consider not only how it affects the quality of your content, but also how your audience is reacting to the frequency of your posts. With so many blogs out there, and with each of us following our fair share of them, it’s likely that most followers aren’t reading your stuff on a daily basis — unless it’s top-shelf, every day. It takes a lot of time to be a “follower”. Being mindful of that, it’s safe to assume that most people are selective about what they read. Also remember, it takes time to produce something high-quality, even if it’s only a thousand words. Be selective. Otherwise, you might not only burn yourself out, you’ll also burn your audience out too.
Hopefully you’ll find this article useful. If you’re like myself, you’re always looking for ways to improve your stuff. Interacting with an audience can be just as fulfilling as the writing part. So, considering all this begs the question:
Are you the Curator of an Art Blog or the Mediator of a Conversational Blog?
Let’s get this party started…
- The Art of Writing Blog Comments (zemanta.com)
- Zen and the Art of Blogging (clownonfire.wordpress.com)
- Art of Writing Persuasive Blog Entries for Greater ROI (mokshis.com)
I know it’s premature to be talking about things I’m thankful for, but dammit, I’m glad the pagans hijacked Halloween back in the day. Those earth-humping heathens really knew how to party. Can you imagine what a shitty get-together it would’ve been if they hadn’t invented Halloween? No free candy, no blood and guts, no panty-clad zombies…
Scratch me off the guest list.
Ok, maybe I’m confusing the facts, but one thing I know for sure is that every kid in the U.S. will be itchin’ to hit the streets this Halloween in their killer costumes in hot pursuit of free candy. Halloween is the biggest, baddest holiday bash on the calendar for those little squirrels. Don’t ruin it for them by being a douche bag.
Here’s a few tips to avoid a toilet paper job from the neighborhood kids:
Turn your light on
Unless you live in an apartment or your car, there’s no reason for your porch light to be off on Halloween. Go out right now and spend twenty dollars on some candy for the little gremlins, cheap skate. People did it for you, now keep the enchantment alive. If I find out your lights were off on Halloween I’m gonna wash your windows with peanut butter…
Don’t pass out dumb stuff
Do not pass out anything other than candy. This isn’t an advertising opportunity for your local church or business. Getting a pamphlet in the pillow case is about as lame as it gets. The only thing dumber than a flier is a handful of pennies. Do the kids a favor — put those pennies in your gas tank and drive your lazy ass to the nearest grocery store. Rule of thumb: If it doesn’t give you a sugar-buzz, don’t put it in the bag.
No pictures, please
Let me refresh your memory in case you forgot. The goal on Halloween night is to hit as many porches as possible within a two hour span. Don’t waste valuable minutes looking for yourPolaroid camera. I doubt you have a wall of fame dedicated to trick-or-treaters anyways. You have ten seconds to put the candy in the bag. Go.
Don’t embrace the Trick
Look, I get it. Halloween is all about celebrating blood and gore, but don’t bother with all the antics. Most of the kids that show up aren’t strong enough to carry their own candy, yet alone fend off a violent chainsaw attack. Don’t be that guy that embraces the Trick part of Trick or Treat. Don’t you get it? It’s a rhetorical question. They aren’t asking for one or the other, it’s just a way to get you to open the door. If you don’t heed my advice, you might be pawning off that chainsaw to pay for your post-holiday nasal reconstructive surgery.
Bonus Section: The “Don’t-Buy” Candy List
Be mindful of what kind of candy you pass out. Kids have a very keen palette. They’re experts in the field, and they know what they like and don’t like. Don’t pass out the following:
- Whoppers – I don’t even know what these things are. But, if I had to guess I’d say they were mothballs covered with chocolate.
- Raisinettes – Here’s another one I don’t get. Why do candy companies think they can put chocolate on anything and make it taste good? A raisin, last I checked, is a shriveled grape. Why not chocolate-covered shoe laces? These things look and taste like rabbit pellets.
- Mound/Almond Joy Bars – You should feel like a nut when you buy this crap. I don’t know why they were even invented. Apparently some desperate candy-chemist thought coconuts tasted better with chocolate on them. Newsflash: nothing makes a coconut palatable. That man should have been fired and deported.
- Marshmallow Candies – Another candy invention gone wrong. I don’t think these things even decompose. There are probably millions of them – still in the wrapper – buried in landfills across the U.S. I think they should change the name from Peeps to Poops.
- Popcorn Balls – Popcorn is cool at the movie theater, but not that cool when it’s shaped into a ball, held together with Elmer’s Glue. Wtf were they thinking? One positive thing about them is that they make awesome projectiles. I wouldn’t recommend passing them out if your house has windows.
I hope I was able to provide some closure for last year’s unfortunate toilet-papering incident. Pass out jumbo-sized candy bars — the bigger the better. Think like a kid. Don’t be a Halloweiner this year, or it might happen again.
P.S. I hope a zombie eats your face off, Pat Robertson.
-Happy Halloween Bitchers!
- 10 Candy Tumblrs to Fix Your Sweet Tooth (mashable.com)
- Top 5 Picks For ‘Best Halloween Candy’ (wycd.cbslocal.com)
- What Candy You Give Out For Halloween, Says A Lot About You (1019litefm.cbslocal.com)
- The Real Halloween Horror: Trick or Treat Candy’s Bitter Human Toll (dailyfinance.com)
On the night of the audition I drove out to the band’s practice facility, located in a rough part of the city. I was a bit leery as I pulled into the half-lit parking lot. The place was in shambles, and covered with half-painted brick and graffiti. I walked up to the back entrance and pounded on the black metal door. Nobody answered. I double checked the address, and another knock went unanswered. For a few minutes I paced the parking lot looking for a sign of life. It started to feel like I’d been duped. Suddenly, the back door swung open and out popped Mike with that familiar grin on his face.
The inside looked like a converted whore house, and smelled like a combination of a dirty bar and a gym locker room. It had rock and roll written all over it. There was a long hallway with a series of rooms that were being occupied by other bands. I could faintly hear music being played down the long corridor as I lugged my equipment inside. The band practiced behind the first door on the left. The room was partitioned, and the seating area and practice room were separated by a large Plexiglass window.
The room was full of amplifiers, guitars, and sound equipment, and the floor was covered with empty beer bottles and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts. I set up in the corner of the room and went through my normal warm-up routine. I tried my best to chop through the nerves. The band was sitting in the next room behind the glass window, paying little attention while I warmed up. Everyone sat around talking and drinking – business as usual.
As soon as I finished, the band filtered into the room and we went through introductions again. I taped the playlist to the top of my kick drum while everyone else plugged in. The sound of the amplifiers heating up energized the room and I could feel myself welling up with nerves.
I struggled for the first half of the set, confusing songs and getting mixed up on some of the parts. I didn’t feel all that comfortable – mainly from the enormous amount of self-induced pressure. The guys could sense it I think, and decided to take a break after the first run through of the set list. Everyone left the practice area and went back behind the glass. I knew they were talking about me. It wasn’t a great first impression by any stretch. The opportunity that I’d been offered was slipping away from me. I needed to find a way to salvage it — fast.
After everyone left, I stayed seated behind the kit and exhaled my frustration. The room was quiet with the exception of the low frequency buzzing of the amps. My mind tossed around a number of self-defeating thoughts, and I was starting to feel like I’d forgotten everything. I needed to get to a better state of mind – and quickly — so I started playing some familiar cover tunes. It was the same old crap I’d rehearsed a million times before.
I was so wrapped up in the moment that I didn’t notice the guys watching from behind the glass the entire time. When I stopped playing I was surprised to see everyone in the next room pressed up against the window, their mouths agape. I guess that’s all I needed to do, because that ended up being the night I officially took over as the new drummer for the band. The magical feeling was short-lived though. The clock was now ticking. We had one month to prepare for the biggest show to date, and the first show ever for me.
For the next few weeks in felt like we never left the practice studio. Every night we’d hammer out the set list, drink a few beers, and do it all over again. It was a time to bond and get loose — have some fun. Some nights I would go to the studio alone and practice. I’d crack a beer and run through our songs, then finish up with some cover tunes. I don’t recall getting a whole lot of sleep during that time span. It was pure, nonstop adrenaline keeping me functioning.
On the eve of the first show I went to the studio alone. My kit was looking a bit neglected from being in the dirty whore house for so long — it was desperately in need of a good polishing. I wanted it to look immaculate for the show. I shined up the whole kit. The cymbals looked like mirrors, and the blood-red finish on the drums looked as deadly as the day I bought them. After I finished, I packed everything up and headed home for the night. It was time to get some rest.
The following morning was a complete blur and evening came fast. The radio station that was sponsoring the show had arranged a shuttle bus for all the bands on the ticket. There were five in total and they were the best that the local scene had to offer. I met with my group at the scheduled time at our rendezvous point, and all five groups piled on the bus. Attendance was expected to be through the roof that night. It was completely sold out – unprecedented for a local show at that venue.
I sat nervously on the bus. Everyone else seemed relaxed. All the guys except me were seasoned – I was still a virgin. I tried not to think about it. The radio station spotted an advertisement for the show too, and we’d down a shot of whiskey together whenever it came on the radio. For as anxious as I was, it was a cool feeling being behind the scenes for once. For so many years I was the guy in the audience. Not tonight.
We pulled up to the venue and the place was hoppin’. It looked sold out. People were lined up out the doors. The bus cleared out and we went in through the backstage area. Each of us were given an all access pass on the way in. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a backstage pass also meant free drinks for the bands and their crews. Good thing — I needed it.
We were scheduled to perform before the headline act. Most of the night was nothing but mulling about, nervously killing time. I watched the crowd from one of the balconies. The main floor was packed to the gills. It was nothing but a mass of drunken idiots swirling around in front of the stage – thirsty for a good show. I watched the minutes tick by, and as it got closer I started to grow even more restless. The group before us began setting up on stage, and I decided to go outside to get some fresh air. I was a nervous wreck.
The whole experience was overwhelming and I started feeling sick. I could feel the sweat bead up and trickle down my back, bringing a chill to my body as I stood outside. The music started and was audible through the stage doors. I needed to get away from it. The further I walked the more I thought about leaving – walking away from the whole thing. I wasn’t ready for it.
I quickly walked down Main Street past the storefronts. My heart felt like it was gonna explode inside of me. I could see and feel the wispy strands of steam being pulled from my body by the frigid night air, and my mind raced with thoughts that I didn’t want to entertain. Underneath all of the horrible thoughts was a deep-seeded fear of failure. I was afraid of letting everyone down – including myself. The warm breaths poured out in shallow bursts as I stopped and stood on the street.
Suddenly, I felt something come over me – an impromptu feeling of calm. It felt for a moment like somebody else had been standing there with me, talking some sense into me – like a family member that had passed on.
My mind flashed – recalling all of the events and memories that had lead up to this point.
I saw myself at the studio with the guys practicing, and all the nights that I spent out there alone – I saw all of the shows again in vivid detail, and the two-man band with our crappy Van Halen cover songs – I saw myself muscling through all of the rudiments for hours on end – I revisited the giddy feeling the first time I saw Excalibur gleaming under the music shop lights – I remembered the very first jam sessions with the dorky kid from high school…
…and then I remembered the buckets – the noble first attempt to try and imitate John Bonham, my adolescent-hood musical hero. I remembered the nightly dreams of being on stage — the conductor of an aggressive symphony — threatening to shake the stadium to a pile of dusty rubble. I could hear the sounds again of the guitars shredding through the air – electrifying the building, and the vocalist sending the crowd deeper into frenzy…
…tonight was that night I’d dreamt about, and I was only three city blocks away from the spot where I’d finally live out that dream…
Snap back to reality. Oh shit. What time is it?
I ran back to the venue at full sprint and stomped out a cigarette in front of the backstage doors. Just before I could tear open the door, something in my peripherals caught my attention. I turned and noticed beyond the parking lot a three-story, strobe-lit marquee next to the venue. How in the hell did I miss that? I watched the screen for a minute as it scrolled through the show advertisement. Our band flashed across the bright square in front of the entire downtown district. How observant of me. I guess I was too caught up before to even notice…
I got back just in time. The band that had been playing finished their set. While the stage was being cleared I ran through a mental checklist: Get the arms warm again – shake off the cold – get loose – set list – sticks – equipment – where’s my gear? – it’s right there – what happened to my drink? – bum me a smoke, I can’t find mine – where’s Mike? – I need some tape – 10 minutes until sound check guys – let’s go, we’re on the clock.
I ran through the set list in my head one last time as I got situated on stage. The crowd was starting to fill out, and was bigger than it was for any of the other acts. The sound guy mic’d up my drums and ran through sound check. I’ll never forget the exchange: “This your first show?” he asked. “Yeah”, I replied nervously. “Get ready, it’s better than sex.”
Everything was ready to go. The crowd was electric that night. The lights turned on front-stage and I could feel the heat on my forehead. I could taste the bronze on my tongue from the glistening cymbals standing in front of me. As the amplifiers began to heat up, the audience grew anxious, collectively bracing for the sonic onslaught. Then, in a split-second, I heard that familiar guitar intro scream through the air, sending a shot of adrenaline ripping through my arms and legs. With a four-count click of the teeth, and by the grace of the gods of rock, my arms came simultaneously crashing down onto the mighty Excalibur, sending a thunder-crack roaring into the frenzied crowd. The audience exploded at the sound of the crash. The electrical charge that blasted from the stage reverberated off the back of the auditorium and shot back through my chest. The impact sent me out of body momentarily, and I watched my limbs flying effortlessly through the air from above the stage — each and every meaningful note being played by something much bigger than me.
It was a spiritual moment – a moment when everything seemed as real as it could ever get. It was in that very moment – in that strange place in time – when I’d finally validated a lifelong dream. I’d officially become an ordained minister of rock that night. I’d become the conductor of an aggressive symphony – just like John Bonham.
After the show was over we all went out to a local pub to celebrate. We ended up drawing the largest crowd out of all of the bands on the bill that night – including the headline act. We had a good laugh about it, a lot of drinks on the bar top, and recounted the entire experience together. I felt relieved. It felt good to finally get that first show under my belt. As we left the bar, we even signed a couple autographs – what a trip. I’m pretty sure those signatures never made it to Ebay…
When I got home that night I fell face first to the bed and didn’t move the entire night. The whole experience was exhausting – both physically and emotionally. The next morning I rolled over in bed and relived that night all over again. It was hard not to smile. “I don’t wanna be a rock star”, I thought to myself…”I am one”.
Chase your dreams…
We (the band) continued the local circuit for the next couple of years after that first show together. We were fortunate enough to play some larger, radio-sponsored venues, and even got a spin on the radio at one point. I eventually left the band to pursue a college degree, and the group disbanded shortly after.
A few months after I left, I was invited out to audition with one of the biggest Rock groups in Detroit at the time. The band was a signed, national act. I was offered the position after the try out, but ended up respectfully turning it down. The experience made me realize that my love for music ran much deeper than any shallow dream of becoming a rock star ever did. The road to stardom is always costly in the end.
Oh, and I still play Excalibur to this day…
Outro: Led Zeppelin, Black Dog – Live at Madison Square Gardens. The Song Remains the Same (film), 1976
- Happy Blogging Bitchers
- The Conductor of an Aggressive Symphony (part 3 of 4) (righttobitch.com)
- Bands breaking up/meltdowns in the studio (gearslutz.com)
- Bands vs. Venues: Who promotes? Who makes money? Can everyone “win”? (aixelsyd13.wordpress.com)
The two of us became good friends throughout high school and beyond, and spent every weekend together jamming out in the basement. It changed the way I played. Sitting in front of a guitarist gave my drums a new sound. It sounded much better – purposeful sounding for once. We had officially become an unofficial two-piece band — without a name.
We didn’t really have any material to speak of. Most of our set was made up of half-ass cover songs. Neither one of us were songwriters by any stretch of the imagination, but managed to eke out a few original songs on top of our Van Halen set list. We even had a small following. On occasion a few friends would come over to watch us play. When I look back, there always seemed to be a direct correlation between how long everyone stayed and how much free beer was left in the cooler. When the beer was gone, the show was over. I guess it was better than no crowd at all…
As time went on, we began accumulating bigger and better equipment too. I became a regular haunt at a local music store and learned quickly that playing an instrument – particularly the drums – isn’t a cheap hobby. It didn’t matter though — it was go for broke, for me. This was my ticket to ride, but I needed a serious set of hardware before stepping on that bus. My kit was rounding out and becoming bigger, badder, and louder.
At one point I finally broke down and began taking lessons. It was a minor setback at first, but long overdue nonetheless. It was a pretty humbling experience at first. The unorthodox garage-drummer stuff didn’t hold up very well when seated next to someone that’d been classically trained. After a few years of studying Studio Funk, I caught up on theory, notations – all the boring shit. For as dumb and repetitive as it seemed at the time, it would eventually pay great dividends. For hours on end I would practice the pads. The routine would go something like this: 1.) Play rudiment, 2.) Screw up, 3.) Cuss, 4.) Smoke, 5.) Repeat…
On the nights that we didn’t practice we were out watching bands touring the local circuit at the time. We went to a lot of shows. Some of the bands were really good and some were really bad. In my mind it set the bar for what I was up against. I was constantly sizing myself up with other drummers, paying close attention to each and every one that I came across. The drummer was the vital puzzle piece of every band in my mind – the conductor. If the drummer sucked, the band sucked – period. I would always silently criticize, watching and listening to the consistency and color of his rhythms. During the show I would count in my head, taking mental notes of all of the mistakes the untrained ears in the audience were oblivious too. The more shows that I went to the more I realized that I was finally coming into my own.
One night after band practice I pitched the idea of starting a legitimate project to my guitar buddy. The two- man-band thing was getting old to me, and I was feeling like I’d long outgrown it. It was fun while it lasted, but in my mind it was time to get serious for once. I wanted to write music and play in front of a crowd, not sit around on a Saturday night playing stupid-ass cover songs in a basement.
It only took four and a half years for me to finally discover that the guitarist I’d evolved with — who I was counting on to start a band with –had had a severe phobia of performing in front of crowds. I couldn’t believe it. In a way I felt cheated – betrayed almost. While the monologue unfolded in my head, the voice of reason promptly interrupted the crazy talk. Fuck him. I don’t need him.
After the officially unofficial two-piece band broke up, we parted company and never really played together after that. He wanted to stay in the basement – alone – and I was looking for any way possible to get to the stage. There’s no way this minor hiccup was gonna throw a wrench in my operation. It was time to do some legwork.
I looked through every community board at every record shop within a thirty mile radius. I needed to find an audition. It ended up being a complete waste of time. I digress — it turned out to be one ridiculously funny story after another. One thing I learned through trial and error is that wanted postings are always inaccurate and wildly embellished. After reading through a good number of them and going for a few auditions, I eventually learned how to interpret them. For example, “10 years of experience” often translates into “I bought a guitar 10 years ago, but never played it until last Tuesday.” Another example, “Looking for Drummer – Some Original Material”, typically translates into “Shitty Cover Band with No Singer, Either”. It was deceptive advertising at its finest.
For a brief period it felt like all was lost. But, as luck would have it, I ended up catching wind of the potential break I’d been desperately searching for.
A friend of mine told me about an upcoming show featuring a new band on the local scene. They were ready to pop. They had it all – a playlist, booked gigs, solid guitars, and an edgy vocalist who sounded like nothing else around. The only thing that was holding them back? The drummer sucked. This was my in. I had to find out for myself what all the hype was about, but more importantly, I had to do whatever I could to sweet-talk my way into an audition.
I met some friends at the venue that night. The crowd was surprisingly thick for a relatively new band on the scene. The energy was electric — I could feel the buzz in the atmosphere. It wasn’t like a lot of the shows that I’d been to in the past few years. This one felt different to me. It might have had something to do with my hypersensitivity to the scenario I’d become aware of. I was giddy. I’d never been a big believer in fate, but in that particular time and place, it felt like it was destined to be from the very beginning.
The band started playing and they were nothing short of electrifying. They were exactly as advertised – heavy, raw, aggressive, different – it was everything that I ever wanted. The only drawback was the drummer. What an embarrassment. It was hard for me not to criticize everything about him. I can recall his sloppy limbs flailing around like a monkey in a litter box, missing every note, and keeping horrible time. I knew right then that this was my ticket.
I stuck around after the show to mingle, and the friends that I’d met at the venue introduced to the band. They had a certain swagger about themselves unlike any other group of musicians I’d met before. They were good and they knew it. I knew it too. We sat and talked for awhile about the local music scene and all that jazz. I didn’t realize it at the time, but was surprised to learn that they’d already heard about me from our mutual friends. Well, everyone but the drummer heard about me…
We closed the place down that night and talked after everyone had cleared out. The rest of the band had left, and I sat with the guitarist pounding down gin and tonics. Seemingly troubled, he finally asked what I thought about the drummer. As tastefully as I could, I beat the guy into the ground — his playing, anyways. It was no time for mincing words. I made it clear that the drummer was holding the band back and I wanted his spot. There wasn’t a single shred of doubt in my mind that I couldn’t take the group to the next level. Maybe it was the gin, maybe it was frustration — maybe it was just my time.
We parted company late that night. As I closed the car door, I felt something resisting it from the outside. It was Mike — puffing with a wide grin and holding a handful of disks. “Give it a listen, we’ll see you next weekend for an audition”, he said. I went home that night and didn’t sleep a wink.
It was finally my time to shine…
Click Here for the Conclusion
- The Conductor of an Aggressive Symphony (Part 2 of 3) (righttobitch.com)
- The Conductor of an Aggressive Symphony (part 1 of 3) (righttobitch.com)