The Last Jedi and My Improptu Tour of Pleasures.

I drove up to San Antonio this morning to see The Last Jedi. 

I wasn’t planning on seeing it today. 

I was planning on saving it for next Saturday, the first Saturday of my two-week Christmas break, as a Beginning-of-Break treat.

I save certain science fiction/fantasy action adventure films for the IMAX 3D screen at the Santikos Palladium movie theater across I10 from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I have to budget them out, because it’s a pricey ticket. I wasn’t a fan of 3D cinema before, but since taking my ex-girlfriend there to see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus back when it premiered, and I saw it done right on a proper screen, I was sold.

Then all the hype came out about The Last Jedi, the positive praise, the urgings to see it before all those idiots who have made spoiling surprises just so they can “Be In The Know” and hold that feeling priority over some people’s love of surprise. 

But I’ll save my thoughts and choice words on the Gotta-Know-First-And-Blurt-Spoiler-Obsessed and their ilk for another blog. But all the hype made me decide to scrounge up enough cash for the ticket.

It was, of course, fantastic, giving this life-long fan of Star Wars everything I wanted in a Star Wars film in a way I wasn’t expecting – and I loved it.

There were so many laugh out loud and cheer- or applause-worthy moments, I was surprised and a little disappointed when the rest of the crowd was silent. Such was the majestic awesomeness of Rian Johnson’s vision, that I didn’t care, and I did my own golf-clapping, laughing, and toned-down cheers.

Afterwards, already in a state of positive euphoria, I stopped at ULTA Beauty Supply to pick up my grooming and skin care products, a cologne. 

I started using men’s skin care products almost a year to day, after my friend Elsa did my make-up for my role as Egeus in a local theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A small part of using the products was it’s obvious benefits, but a major part of the ritual was my physically applying them to my face. 

In better times, my ex-girlfriend would often spontaneously stroke my face, the top of my head, to continual delight and pleasure. Her shows of affection made me feel so loved, so special. I had known for a while that I was a person who needed a lot of physical contact. 

Now that I’m single, I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss it terribly. So my nightly skin care regimen became an essential component of my self-care ritual, and gave me a good excuse to give myself the physical contact I craved.

So it was a nice treat to stock up on all the “essentials.”

By this time, I was starving. And I wanted to enjoy something delicious and comforting that wasn’t available back in Laredo. 

In Martin Brest’s 1992 film, Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino plays a blind war veteran who, along with Chris O’Donnell, visits New York, and embarks on a series of adventures and fine experiences. In the film he refers to it as a “tour of pleasures.”

I’ve since taken up that phrase to refer to my day trips to San Antonio or my weekend concert-goin trips to Austin.

At this point on my Tour of Pleasures, having eaten nothing but a couple of bananas and some Starbucks on the road after a two hour drive and a movie that was over two hours long, then shopping st ULTA, I was starving. I wanted to find something delicious to eat. 

Then I remembered Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

It’s a higher end chain – better than Johnny Carino’s (which I love) and Olive Garden (which I hate). But it was in the same sprawling shopping/entertainment center as the Palladium and ULTA. 

I entered, approached the lady in the front, and asked for any available table or small booth. She told me that it would be a thirty to forty-five minute wait, but if I wanted to, there was space at the bar area. I jumped at that, and I was lucky enough to find a small nook in a small, secluded corner of the bar.

There was one young girl running the area, but I really didn’t care. I sat there, reading articles off of my Flipboard app and doing some writing.

By the time I got her attention, it was a little while longer till she brought me bread and oil and a glass of water. Before she was off again, I ordered. I wanted to enjoy a glass of red, but I wanted to something different. She recommended a pinot noir (Paul Giamatti’s voice from Sideways, echoing in my mind about pinot) and brought me a sample. It was complex enough and not too dry so I went ahead and ordered the nine ounce serving along with their version of the ultimate comfort food, “Mom’s Homemade Lasagna.”

The pinot and lasagna in the warm setting of Maggiano’s was the perfect counterpoint to the forty-three degree temperature and gray, miserable rain outside; me reading articles off of my phone, writing my Daily Meditation, and just taking breaks to eat, breath, close my eyes and enjoy being right inside the moment.

Just breathing. 

Just being in the moment.

I smiled.

The whole time, walking in my winter gear, waiting and wading amidst all the pre-Christmas shopping throngs, lines, and traffic. At times, beautiful women and pretty girls would look at me and smile. I looked them right in the eye, smiled back and went on my way.

Smiled, that’s what I was doing, mostly the entire time, smiling because I was happy. 

Happy to be swimming among humanity, to be free and untethered, on my own time doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Just happy to be.

To be.

Purely, simply happy. 

No phantom limb pain.

I smiled, happy, content, and not caring or worrying about, not  giving a single thought to who I was or wasn’t with.

I was with me.

I was present.

I was in the moment.

Simply enjoying being.

Being me.

My Time at The Music House. 

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

5.

I drove in to Austin just to go to sleep.

I arrived exactly twelve hours after Marce’s text. It was 2:00am – just a bit later than scheduled.

I found the house fast, thanks to Google Maps and its location – South Austin, a mile or two towards West Austin, right off 35.

I had to park and do reconnaissance. I wasn’t sure of the house’s exact location, so using the walking directions, I walked until I found the correct address. Marce had texted that he had left the door unlocked.

I opened the door and entered.

The smell of old wood floors and plaster comforted my road weary body as it filled my nose.I love the smell of old homes. It reminds me of grandparents’ home in San Antonio. 

An inflatable air mattress, laid out and prepared with a pillow and blanket, greeted me in the middle of the small living room, to my direct right. On the left, amps and guitars were lined up along the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen.

I began to unload my kit in as few trips as and, as quietly as I could. I wanted to do it quickly, but my preparations for the trip had hindered my plans. I finally had completed buying carrying cases for each piece of my drum set, so I could only take in so many at time.

I didn’t want to risk doing the “Shopping Bag Thing” and carrying all of it at once, then dropping something or putting a dent either in the wall or one of my drums. So it was back and forth and back and forth, but silent and steady was going to be a problem.

Anticipating the probability of rain, I wore my chunky hiking boots. Muted – but audible thuds were the best my weary body could do after three hours on the road and all the events previous to that.

The continuous and uninterrupted sound of snoring in the next room allayed my fears of waking anyone up. Marce snores. Go figure.

I stacked my kit in the corner of the kitchen, beside the fridge where Marce had told me there’d be space. Then I brought in all my percussion gear and set it, as compactly and organized as I could beside Marce and Ryan’s amps along the wall dividing kitchen from living room.

Last, I brought in my duffle bag and my satchel that held all my writing and sketching gear.

I have this thing when I travel where I have to take out all of my gear and lay it out around and beside me just so: plug in my charger and charge my phone, lay out my keys and wallet, take out the novel I’m reading, as well as my writing journal, my sketch pad, along with pen and pencils.

Once that’s set, I feel at ease and a sense of security. Then I can take my meds and get ready for bed.

I couldn’t help but be aware that everything I had done that whole day up to this point had a sense of ritual about it – even me not rushing and going slow about all my travel preparations. But it was exactly that.

For me, even though this was a weekend jam session, it was a spiritual experience. Bob Batey’s death changed all that. I was, again, acutely aware of the Hand of the Divine at work, and I had to pay it the reverence of ritual.

It wasn’t just music that we were going to make, but magic. This was a ritual of reconnection. The resetting of a bond that had lain cracked and fallow in many ways for over twenty years.

There was the fact that I had to make amends with Marce.

I needed to make music to honor the passing of Batey.

And I needed to make music to attain a level of spirituality that I know I needed to set myself right.

But the house – the house was so cool – and not temperature-wise, it had a cool vibe. I had to look around first.

I took pictures immediately to document my journey. I posted many of them on Instagram that first night.

The living room and kitchen were both of equal proportion and both equally small – but cozy. All the furniture was late sixties/early seventies retro: wood grain speakers stacked on a an end table, a long wooden bench-style kitchen table, aluminum and red plastic diner chairs, vintage speakers and amps used as decoration, black and white pictures of Paul McCartney, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen covered the walls, vintage posters of Rio de Janeiro Carnivale posters plastered on the fridge. The place was perfect.

There was magic to be made. And if there was magic to be made, this was the place to make it.


I changed, settled into bed, read a little, wrote a little, and drew a little, then before I knew it, sleep took.

I awoke to a room flush with pure bright sunlight. The sounds of Marce shuffling around in the kitchen and the bedroom as he made coffee.

There was nothing for it. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to get up.

It was time to see what the day had in store.
Next: Setting up. Back in the pocket. Old, good friends, old, good brothers. Reunions and Revels.

My Time at The Music House.

“What time are you getting here?” the text read. “Ryan’s here and we’re all set up.”

I looked at the time the message was sent. 2:00 pm.

I checked the time on my phone.

It read 3:35 pm.

Crap.

Part 1.

This is a story about a journey, one both literal and figurative – one of enlightenment, of discovering your purpose, of being wronged – and realizing that you were wrong yourself, of communication, of forgiveness, of healing, of honesty, of clarity, of friendship, brotherhood, and rock and roll, of acceptance, and of letting go.

All of this is true.

All of this really happened.

TMH Cover

Thursday, July 14, 2017.

My eyes opened up.

I honestly can’t remember if they opened up on their own, or if it was the frequent chirping of my smart phone notifying me that I had texts roused me. I sat up. I dragged myself up out of bed, staggered over to my phone at its charging station. I had moved that attention-seeking son of a bitch as far away from my bedside as I could since my Major Depression diagnosis nearly three years ago.

It was Marce.

“What time are you getting here?” the text read. “Ryan’s here and we’re all set up.”

I looked at the time the message was sent. 2:00 pm.

I checked the time on my phone.

It read 3:35 pm.

Crap.

Marce was in Austin.

I was in Laredo.

I had told him I’d leave by 8:00 am – 12:00 pm, latest.

That’s a three hour drive, easy – if there were no cops, light traffic, and no construction work. I had a late night the night before. I stood there staring at the phone foggy-headed for a minute feeling like an idiot. I ran the mental checklist of things I still had to do before I left Laredo:

– go to the bank.

– stop by guitar center to see if they more carrying cases for my drums.

– break down my drum set.

– pack them in their cases.

– load them up.

Screw it, I thought. I texted him back, “I just woke up but I’ll get there as soon as I can.” It would be a day wasted. Wasted where I could have been jamming in Austin with my friends who I first started playing with from high school – Marcelino, who we just call Marce, and Ryan.

I had seen Marce recently. We jammed around three years ago. I was able to persuade him to come down once I had convinced the owner of AJs – a friend of mine – to book us a gig. Marce came down twice in one year. We had a blast. We did two impromptu gigs playing his original tunes at my favorite neighborhood bar along with the blues-garage-grunge-rock band I play drums for.

I really wanted to see Ryan. I hadn’t seen him since high school. He was always really chill, with a nice, dry, weird sense of humor. But damn could shred on the axe. I honestly think he was the best of us – and still is. And he’s a technological wizard.

A few weeks before, Marce calls me up. It’s one of those conversations that stretches over a couple of days, switching from text to phone call to Facebook Messenger in some mashup technological blur. For some reason, Marce really wanted to Messenger video chat me or some such techno-babble. That came out terribly, but often I’ve realized modern tech brings out my Cranky Old Man side. Marce tells me he’s going to be in Austin for some time. He’ll be renting a house, Ryan will be coming over, they’ll be taking their instruments over, some basic recording equipment, set up shop, and we’d have three days to simply jam, create, and make music.

I paused, ready to mechanically spout out one of my many excuses as to why I couldn’t go:

– my girlfriend.

– we had to watch her girls.

– I had to watch the house the times my parents would go to visit my sister and her family in Arkansas.

– my father …

But now, for the first time in five years I realized that I had none.

My girlfriend, Lindsey broke up with me due to my behavior a year before, during, and after, the passing of my father ( Major Depression is a bitch), so that freed me up from her and girls. Mom was up in Arkansas with my sister. And my father – well, my father passed away a year ago last April. My brother Tom moved back into the house with his partner. And the day that I could head up was the day after payday. I realized I could. I had nothing holding me back – nothing to lose and everything to gain.

There was only one tiny problem.

The last time I talked to Marce I had told him off.

Really bad.

Twice.

That and I had gotten so pissed, so enraged at him, I had cut off all contact with him since May of last year. But really it began the day after my father passed away from complications due to gall bladder cancer that spread to his liver. My father passed on April 26, 2016.

How did that happen?

Well, that’s a whole other blog in itself.

 

Next week: The Music House Part Two – Three messages, some backstory, and the competitive conflict that breeds genuine artistic creativity.