My landlord just came by to fix something in the apartment, and he saw my (well, OK, my father's and grandfather's) collection of vintage reel-to-reel machines, turntables, power amplifiers, and other audio equipment, some dating back to the 50's. I told him some of them were inoperable, and then I had to physically restrain myself from bursting out laughing when he said he could fix them. Because, I swear to you, he actually started with - word for word - "My old man is a televison repairman..." and he wasn't joking.
Many February 18ths ago I moved into the most amazing neighborhood in NYC - and the world, as far as I can tell. When the temps hit the 70s this week, I'm going out walking in that neighborhood and eating everything in it, from every one of the dozens of countries represented here. Then I'm topping that off on my rooftop watching the sun go down with a cigar so enormous it'll have its own gerrymandered congressional district.
Attention all New Yorkers: alternate side parking is suspended today. Obviously.
I’m starting a new award. It’s called “For Pete’s Sake.” Pete was the father of one of my oldest friends, and when I’d come visit, he’d ask me about what was happening in my life and how things were going. This was around the time I was in high school and college, a time when we all show a heightened propensity for getting into something we intuitively know is not going to end well…then going right ahead and doing it anyway.
I would regale Pete with the tale of my latest ill-advised, self-inflicted debacle. After careful deliberation, he would take a leisurely puff on his cigarette and then offer the Zen-like admonition: “Well…don’t DO that.” It has stuck with me ever since. Anytime I would hit on the obviously insane girl, drink too much, mouth off to a cop, bet on the Jets – you name it – I would invariably find myself the next morning uttering, “Well…don’t DO that.” It became a mantra.
We seem to be increasingly inundated these days by news stories of people who could have used Pete and his sage advice. So this is a community service. I’ll cite a news story, including only the relevant details so that we can all pinpoint the exact moment the award’s recipient could have exercised judgement and common sense, thereby deftly avoiding his or her predicament. Then we’ll postulate how the ensuing conversation with Pete might have gone, had he been consulted.
So let’s get started! Ready? Our inaugural “For Pete’s Sake” award goes to this guy:
“Smoking Driver Ignites Van Carrying Gas Canisters and Plows Into Shanghai Pedestrians”
PETE: “What happened?”
DRIVER: “I was driving a van full of gas canisters and I decided that would be a good time to light up.”
PETE: (pause) “Well…don’t DO that.”
BONUS: Because there’s such a backlog of so many poor, misbegotten souls out there in dire need of direction, It would be an abdication of my civic duty to leave the glaringly obvious recent trend unaddressed:
“Teens are daring each other to eat Tide pods.”
PETE: “What happened?”
TIDE POD EATER: “I knowingly and intentionally ingested laundry detergent.”
PETE: (pause) “Well…don’t DO that.”
Amsterdam - we will bypass you this spring, but the fall tour kicks off there October 1st! Zie je in Oktober!
Because these are usually done in bulk and on short turnaround (and invariably squeezed in when I'm burned out and tired), I could probably get the ultmate blooper reel out of it. "Hi, this is Jeffrson Thomas ans you're listening to 95.5, the Rock Of...wait, where the fuck is this station again?"
Doing this always makes me think of the classic Casey Kasem outtkake collection. To this day, I stil say "PONDEROUS, man. Fucking PONDEROUS" whenever something isn't quite coming together...
You work and work at this, and you’re so close to it that sometimes you don’t get to see the bigger picture and the progress you’re making. Pick your metaphor: “forest for the trees,” “battle vs. the war”, etc - the point is that a few years ago I made a conscious decision to venture beyond America with my music, and I knew whatever was going to happen was going to be a slow burn: a grassroots kind of affair, and that such things take a while. I wanted to grow my fan base, and you do that by abandoning your comfort zones and bringing your music to new people in new places, not by playing for the same old people in the same old places, which is a rut a lot of musicians get stuck in.
Suddenly, this morning, I noticed that the majority of interaction I’m having these days (social media, email, website, etc.) is with people I don’t know from distant places, who either saw a show or came across my music online and sought me out. The shows I’ve been doing outside the United States have been a lot of hard work and the travel can be a grind. You work it from the ground up and cultivate something a little bigger each time out (we ain’t exactly flyin' in private jets and sellin’ out stadiums yet, and that’s OK; we're doing better than last year, and last year was better than the year before that...you get the idea).
When you do all this yourself, the rock-star glamour is a very small part of your day. And I like that, because we live in a time where people seem to be increasingly putting their stock in fake things and fleeting things and “virtual” things. I'm keeping my eye on real things. Stuff that comes without much effort usually comes without much value.
So thanks – and welcome – to all you new friends from foreign lands. We'll be coming to see you all again in the spring now that the new record is out. Patience, people...we’re building things. And it’s good to build things. Remember – if you’re finding that something is hard, chances are it's worthwhile and you’re doing it right.
OK, so we don't even go to radio yet for another month, and a cursory distribution check shows that you people are BUYING the new record, which is pretty cool in a world where people supposedly don't buy music anymore. But you're doing it a lot at iTunes and Amazon, which is fine, except you're not getting the most bang for your buck with the exclusive EXPANDED EDITION, featuring alternate versions and bonus live tracks...