Friday, April 29, 2016

Key West (04.28.16)

Having some fun and playing some tunes at Key West. Photo by Kat.

I want to start this show report not by talking about what I played at Key West in Second Life, but what the person who performed after me did. Her name is Loreen Legion, and for some reason, I hadn't heard her before. That's a beautiful aspect of the SL music scene... there are always new people and new sounds to discover. Since I simply don't have the time that I once had to cruise around to other people's shows, I rarely catch other SL artists unless they happen to be randomly performing before or after me. Well, I was very glad to have discovered Loreen, because she seems to have a similar attitude about music performance that I do. Let me explain what that's all about.

Loreen Legion. Photo courtesy of Showtime Magazine.

If you want to be a popular musician, there's a simple and formulaic way to do it. Just perform music that is familiar and comfortable for the largest portion of the potential audience. What most people like to hear is music that they know. If they hear new music, they'd like it to be reminiscent of music they already enjoy. There's nothing at all wrong with that. I repeat: there's nothing at all wrong with that. What does that mean in terms of Second Life music performance? The biggest crowds will be for artists who focus on covers of music that's widely known or currently popular, whether they're a live performer or a DJ. I need to say once again, that's fine. What people choose for entertainment is entirely up to them, and they will gravitate toward the musicians who play what they like. It's very simple, as I said before.

So, why doesn't every artist in SL just do what I described above? In fact, let's expand the question outside of SL: if an artist wants to get big crowds at real-life shows and sell lots of recordings, shouldn't they just do their best to sound like other artists?

Yes! Of course they should.

Thankfully -- for people like me, both as a musician and a music lover -- not everyone has the same goals. My goal has never, ever been to be a popular artist in Second Life or otherwise. My goal is to make and perform music that I truly enjoy, with the hope that some percentage of people might also enjoy it. But I've never changed what I write, record, and play based on what I thought people might like. If they happen to like it, that's wonderful, and it is a very fulfilling feeling to see people get into what I play, both originals and covers. But if they don't like it, I'm still going to play it. I don't know Loreen very well, but I'm willing to bet she feels the same way. And sure... we both have songs in our respective sets that are more widely known. It's not the intent of artists like us to purposefully alienate anyone. But with both covers and originals, we play the music that we want to play.

Most artists who perform in SL are not like this. Should I say again, there's nothing wrong with that? Because there isn't. Those people aren't necessarily sacrificing some aspect of their own art to be more popular, a phenomenon known as "selling out" in the music world. They just have different goals, and guess what? That's fine too. But at least for my tastes, the handful of people who do songs that have a lower chance of attracting big crowds are usually among my personal favorites as a listener. Most of them incorporate a good amount of original material to their sets, making them "singer-songwriters", which happens to also be among my favorite types of musicians. Most of them are competent on an instrument to the point of being able to create new sounds and do interesting things beyond getting through a song in a live setting. Most of them have a good deal of performing experience in real life that they draw upon for their SL shows. And most of them have decidedly smaller audiences than the folks who cover the latest hits, or the classic rock and pop songs from the '60s/'70s/'80s that everyone knows and loves.

Again, it's not a "good vs. bad" or "us vs. them" situation. Think of it more like an ice cream shop. Some people go in and want vanilla, and others want chocolate, and others want strawberry or pistachio or rocky road or pineapple. The great part about music in Second Life is that nearly all of the flavors are represented in some way. When I heard Loreen, I knew right away that she was a similar flavor of ice cream as I am, as a musician anyway. I absolutely plan on seeing her again soon, because I get the idea that just hearing one set of her performance is probably the tip of the iceberg, and I want to hear more.

Before anyone wonders why I'm complaining... I'm not! I get good crowds at most of my shows, and by no means am I some kind of purist about what music should and shouldn't be played in SL. I love a good pop tune. I also like the weird stuff. Key West is accepting of both. Photo by Kat.

And now, I shall go back to talking about myself, though it was nice to take a break from that activity. Last night at Key West was good. It was the first show I did after the passing of Prince one week earlier, so I felt obligated as a musician and a fan to acknowledge his genius-level musical contributions by performing a couple of his songs (one he was well known for playing, and another that represented the many songs he wrote that were made successful by other artists). Overall, we had a decent crowd, but more importantly, it was a group of people who truly seemed to enjoy what they were hearing. I tend to pitch my shows by saying that people will likely hear things at a Zak Show that they don't hear elsewhere, and I try and stay true to those words.

One last note: I promise to stop opening every one of my shows with that Martin Courtney song, as I've been doing for the past couple of months. It's just got a good, happy vibe and puts me in a good frame of mind to perform. Also, it has a crucial refrain for artists like me: Please don't go forgetting about me. After reading what I wrote above, you can understand why it's always a concern, heh heh.

Key West set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Saved by Zero (The Fixx)
Take Me with U (Prince)
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince)
Vendetta (They Stole My Crayon)
Never Run Away (Kurt Vile)
Bull Black Nova (Wilco)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Here I Land (Nicholas Stevenson)
Gardenia (Iggy Pop)
Desire Lines (Deerhunter)
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)

Huge thanks to all who came and saw me be my usual weird self at Key West, especially the following who helped support my show!
Trouble Streeter, JustOneMore Loon, RoxxyyRoller Resident, Kat Claxton, RansomTalmidge Resident, Christine Haiku, Tyche Szondi, TheaDee Resident, Nancy Lei, Anek Fuchs, Key West host Skeat Abonwood, owner Liz Harley, and my always-great manager Maali Beck!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Joshua Tree (April 20-23, 2016)

When I was a very young child, I had this image of the desert that was probably inspired by cartoons. In my mind, the only kind of desert was that found in the middle of the Sahara, comprised only of endless sand dunes and certain death. It wasn't until I was in Boy Scouts that I first set foot in an actual desert, here in Southern California, only a few hours' drive from my home near the beach. It wasn't like the cartoons. Not at all. In the Mojave Desert, there were plants growing all over the place... they were just different than those I was used to seeing. Likewise, it wasn't a place of death; I saw more wildlife around me than I ever had in the suburban environs from whence I came. It wasn't full of sand dunes. It was full of everything.

So, as any reader of this blog knows, I really fell in love with the desert, and especially since I first took Christina there in 2010, I've gone back at every opportunity, and I've just returned from yet another fantastic trip. A brief aside: the desert is not for everyone. It can be a extraordinarily different experience for different people depending on where you go, when you go, and what you're into.

We'd last gone to the desert in November of 2015. That wasn't very long ago, and normally we'd have likely waited a bit to plan another trip. But at the start of February, I saw an announcement that swayed our decision greatly: two bands we enjoy a lot -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Deerhunter -- had scheduled a show at Pappy & Harriet's during the week between the two sets of Coachella festival dates. I mentioned this to Christina (aka Kat) and Bunny, not really expecting that we'd be able to attend. But they were both into the idea, and it didn't take a lot of convincing on their behalf to get me to buy in to the idea of spending a few days in paradise.

In the Jeep, heading into the best place on Earth. No, I definitely don't mean Disneyland. Photo by Christina.

Wednesday April 20
I don't know about most people, but the closer I get to a vacation, the harder I have to work to make up for the fact that I'll soon be missing in action. The first couple days of the week were a grind, and I was in meetings right up until the moment we were scheduled to depart. Christina, meanwhile, had gone up to the Valley to pick up Bunny, our bandmate, friend, and traveling companion on many of these desert trips. We got rolling shortly after 12PM, but had to stop and gas up the Jeep, and then get some provisions for our trip (and some lunch for ourselves... no need to start the trip starving). The drive itself was very smooth, with few points of traffic. We were headed, of course, toward our favorite place to stay, the Desert Lily Inn.

Those of you who've heard this story can skip ahead, but humor me while I tell it again. In October 2010, Christina and I had scheduled a much-needed vacation, and she had never been to the desert, which I was pretty sure she'd enjoy. Being modern people, we'd used the Internet and booked a place to stay online. The day before we were leaving, on a whim, I called the place to confirm our reservations were set (despite having received an online confirmation, yada yada). The elderly-sounding guy who answered the phone let me know a) they didn't check the online bookings often, b) therefore had no reservation for us at all, and c) there was a quilting convention in town, and they were booked full. We had no place to stay. It could have been devastating, but after some fast searching, we found the Desert Lily, and miraculously they had a room in the B&B available.

We went, and absolutely loved it... the place itself, and its owner, Carrie Yeager. We discovered on that trip that Carrie also had a number of cabin rentals available. It seemed a bit much for just the two of us, but the following June, our friend Jess flew out to join us, and the three of us stayed at Casa Rosita, a lovely little house that we had to ourselves. We went back a year later in June 2012, this time with our friend (and soon-to-be bandmate at the time) Bunny, staying again at Casa Rosita. And again in March 2013 (with Jess). And again in October of that year. The following June, we went again, and stayed at a different cabin of Carrie's, this one called Rancho Rincon, where we stayed again last November with both Bunny and Jess.

This trip had us staying in Casa Rosita, which is plenty big enough for the three of us. We arrived right about 4PM, and started to unload the Jeep. Christina started to take a step off the porch and then, noticing movement below her right foot, made a sound like, "Ngyaaaa," as I simultaneously grabbed her shoulder to pull her back from the six foot snake that had appeared. It turned out it was a friendly and harmless (to humans, as opposed to rodents) Great Basin Gopher Snake, a beautiful creature who didn't really want to hang out with us but stayed long enough for us to enjoy its company.

Our new desert friend. Photo by me.

Chatting with Bunny outside of Casa Rosita. Photo by Christina.

We didn't have a lot of time to lallygag as we usually would when arriving. The show at Pappy & Harriet's was that same night. Bunny cooked up a delightful dinner of penne pasta and a green salad which we ate, and then it was time to go. Let me tell you a bit about the place we went. On our first trip to Joshua Tree, we asked Carrie at the Lily where we should go for a good meal. She immediately told us about Pappy & Harriet's, a place that I'd heard about quite a lot but hadn't been to, and was entirely new for Christina. We went and loved everything about it. If you're anything like us, so will you. We've been there just for the dinner - please have a rib eye with the garlic potatoes and veggies if you love life at all. We've also been for concert events, since Pappy's has both indoor and outdoor music venues. We saw desert rockers Fatso Jetson and Eagles of Death Metal there in 2014. But no matter the reason, just go. It's just fucking cool. So cool, in fact, that it was #21 in L.A. Weekly's "50 Best Live Music Venues in Los Angeles", despite being 130 miles east of the city.

We arrived, got the prerequisite wristbands to indicate that we were allowed to be inside and allowed to drink alcohol if we so chose. As we walked in, an ambient music band made up of a sax/flute player and two synthesizer guys were droning their thing. I found out later this was Bitchin' Bajas, and they set the somewhat psychedelic mood nicely. UMO hit the stage around 8:30, and did a really great set. The three of us were standing near the side stage artist entrance, and shook the hand of drummer Riley Geare as he got off the stage, congratulating him on a fine performance.

UMO onstage at Pappy's. Beyond awesome. Photo by Christina.

The side of my face at the side of the stage. Photo by Christina.

An inebriated Bunny chastises me for some imaginary transgression. Photo by Christina.

Deerhunter putting on a great show at Pappy's on 4/20. Photo by Christina.

Deerhunter hit the stage not long afterwards, and I was equally impressed by them. Frontman Bradford Cox informed the crowd about some sad news after the first song, though: he dedicated the performance to his stepmother, who had passed away earlier that day. It didn't seem to put a damper on his show; he was energetic and charismatic, and the band played flawlessly.

Christina and I aren't big drinkers; we had one beer each that night. Bunny, though, more than made up for our lack of alcohol consumption, and was a silly drunk as we departed and headed back to Casa Rosita. It had been a long day, and we only stayed up for another hour or so before heading to bed.

Thursday April 21
It's not easy for me to sleep in. I am awakened daily by an alarm at 6AM, and even on normal weekends, it's rare for me to sleep past 8:00. That day, both Christina and I got out of bed around that time, and made coffee, and did our usual desert stuff of walking around and marveling at the beauty around our little home. We had discovered on our previous trip that cellular service had improved in the area, so as we had our coffee, we sat at the dining room table and checked the news. Seeing a particular report raised some alarm with me. A body had been taken out of Paisley Park, the compound of iconic musician Prince. As much as I hoped the worst wouldn't be confirmed, it shortly was. Right around the time Bunny awoke at 9:30, we just got news that Prince had died.

It was a huge shock to us, like it was to so many people who'd loved the music he'd done over the last 40 years. After some appropriate mournful moments, we refused to let it put a damper on our trip, and instead decided to dedicate our good times and music creative activities we'd planned to the Purple One.

We hadn't been on a big store run yet, but still had some bagels and cream cheese that sufficed for breakfast, which we ate while talking about Prince. The big plan for Thursday was just that: planning. We had a list of items to discuss in regard to the upcoming release of the debut album by our band They Stole My Crayon. We did eventually get to the grocery store and got all the stuff we'd need for the next few days. After having lunch and settling in, we started the process of going through our album, song by song, and discussing all the little details that would help us prepare to get it completed and out to the public. It took hours, but was well worth it.

We then went not far down the street from our abode, and had dinner at the Joshua Tree Saloon. We'd been once before, with Jess, but it was Bunny's first time there, and we enjoyed some beers and a perfectly acceptable steak. It was fun. Afterwards, back at the Casa, we got into working on some new music.. just some loose ideas that we came up with on the fly, but enough to get some complete rough demos recorded. And then it was time to sleep, which we did.

Even after many trips there, I can't remember the desert looking so perfect as it did on this trip. Photo by Christina.

This is literally our "yard" at Casa Rosita. You don't have to go far to find beauty in JTree. Photo by Bunny.

Getting some beers at the bar at Joshua Tree Saloon while they found us a table. Photo by me.

Back at the Casa, getting ready to make some new Crayon tunes. Photo by Christina.

Friday April 22
You may have noticed that having been in Joshua Tree for a couple of days, we had yet to venture into what is undoubtedly its main attraction: Joshua Tree National Park. Apart from the show we saw Wednesday night, we were on a very casual schedule, and all three of us have explored nearly every inch of the park on previous trips. That didn't diminish our love for it, of course. When you go through the gates, you suddenly realize that you have no idea what our planet actually looks like, because it seems you've blasted through space and time to a different world, or into another dimension. For those visiting for the first time and wondering what to do, I'll give you four places to go in the Park: 1) Hidden Valley, 2) Barker Dam, 3) Cap Rock - good for people who might have trouble with the mild hiking of the other two, and 4) Keys View. There are many more, but those will be enough to give you a fair picture of JTNP's greatness.

On Friday morning, I cooked up some hash browns and eggs, and then got dressed and headed into JTNP. It was both National Park Week (which meant free admission) and Earth Day, and none of us could imagine a better time to become one with nature. On this trip, we first stopped at Quail Springs for a short visit, and then headed up to Barker Dam, where we did the full mile-plus loop. Due to recent rains, the desert was in bloom, and it was probably the most breathtakingly pretty view of the Park as we'd ever experienced. We took our time walking through, and then went up to Keys View. The ride up the winding road was spectacular, highlighted by fields of yellow, orange, and red flowers, and a deeper green of the many trees and plants that were thriving.

With Bunny at Barker Dam. Photo by Christina.

The Crayon in the desert. Photo by me.

A mile above sea level at Keys View, looking down on the San Andreas fault. Photo by me.

Late in the afternoon, we were all hungry, and headed back to the Casa for lunch. Christina made sandwiches while I chopped us up a huge vegetable platter which we devoured. No trip to Joshua Tree is complete without some serious chill-out time, so after lunch we kicked back and read. It's important to take at least some of your vacation time to truly relax and recharge your energy. But we are a band, and we had instruments and recording gear with us. It wasn't long before we started back into working on new songs. Not only was it a productive writing session, but we also managed to spend a good chunk of the night laughing uproariously at ourselves. At one point, when Christina was trying to throw down a scratch vocal line, the following exchange happened.

Christina: I sound like a dying cow over here.

Slightly Drunk Bunny: If you sound like a dying cow, just own that shit. It's like, "Moo moo moo, I'm dying over here, hey!"

Perhaps you had to be there, but that struck me as being so funny that I nearly lost all control of my bodily functions. We ended up deciding to name the company we'd formed to publish our music as such. We ate a delicious dinner of chicken and salad, and recorded tunes until after midnight, at which point my energy ran low and it was time to sleep once again.

Amazing sunset from our back yard at Casa Rosita. Photo by Christina.

Me, photographing the sunset. Photo by Bunny.

Saturday April 23
It doesn't matter how long you stay in Joshua Tree; it's never quite long enough. Even if I'd been there for three weeks instead of just three days, I'd still feel like I was leaving too soon. It's a good thing, I suppose, but it doesn't make it any easier to pack up and go. We took our time; Carrie has always been cool with us taking our time to get out of her place. After a delicious egg breakfast, we cleaned up the Casa and packed our stuff back into the Jeep.

On top of my unofficial rock at Hemingway Buttress. Photo by Christina.

We decided to make one last foray into the Park, this time to stroll around Hemingway Buttress. We lingered a bit there, not being in a hurry to get back to civilization, but wanting to beat the inevitable traffic heading back to LA. Then we semi-sadly got on the road. After brief stops for gas and food, we were heading due west toward home. I'm happy to say that the return trip was as fast and smooth as the departure, and by 4:30, I was pulling into my driveway in Redondo Beach.

One nice note about this vacation: since it started earlier than usual on a Wednesday, we returned on a Saturday and then had a full day to relax a bit before jumping back into the fray. All three of us agreed that it was a great time, and we were very happy we'd chosen to go. I have yet to regret a single minute I spent in JTree, or a single dollar I spent to be there. I'm pretty sure I never will.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Islands of New England (04.11.16)

Rocking for a fun crowd at the redesigned Islands of New England in Second Life. Photo by Kat.

The less I perform live music in Second Life, the more I seem to enjoy it. I know that sounds like the most backhanded of compliments, but it's true. I am glad to continue playing live shows in SL, and I have no intention of stopping. At the same time, when I only do a few shows per month, each one becomes a special event rather than just some mundane part of my week, as had been the case when I was playing four times as often, as I once did.

The funny thing is that I spend no less of my time on music itself. We just finished the final touches on recording the They Stole My Crayon album last weekend, and on days where I'm not performing in SL or working on Crayon music, I'm writing new songs and more. Anyway, it's all good, and I'm glad I have a manager like Maali Beck who never pushes me to play more often than what's ideal for me.

Enough exposition; let's get to the story... or the show, in this case. I played once again at The Islands of New England in SL last night, but earlier in the day, I was quite excited when the venue manager Christine Haiku dropped me a note on Facebook to say, "Rumor has it there is a whole new venue design waiting for you to break it in tonight... Cya there!"

The new design of The Islands of New England is lovely. It still has the friendly vibe of the old place, but with a definitely more sophisticated build and detail of design. Photo by Kat.

Ooh! Exciting. And when I arrived in the middle of my pal Bat Masters' show, sure enough, the place was all new and looked fantastic. The new design feels more open, and the overall look is just much more detailed and cool. As for my set, I had a few cool things going on. First, I did a song each by Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Deerhunter in homage to the fact that I'm seeing both of those bands along with my Crayon bandmates next week at Pappy & Harriet's. Second, in a nod to our having wrapped up the album, I did a couple of Crayon tunes. Thirdly, and this may not seem like a big deal to you, I pulled out "Old Man" by Neil Young for the first time in many years. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy doing that tune despite the vocal range that's way beyond my comfortable range.

TIONE set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
Sour Girl (Stone Temple Pilots)
Pretty Pimpin (Kurt Vile)
Bag of Nothing (They Stole My Crayon)
Swim and Sleep Like a Shark (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
*Duplex Planet (Deerhunter)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Waking Light (Beck)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
*Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Many thanks to the cool people who came to check out my show at TIONE, especially to the following who helped support it.
Richy Nervous, AaronnMercury Resident, Brooklyn Breen, TalliskaTre Resident, Sommer Shepherd, Kat Claxton, Tippy Wingtips, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, RansomTalmidge Resident, TheaDee Resident, BAT8997 Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, my great manager Maali Beck, and the person who's kept TIONE awesome, Christine Haiku!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

We Are Done Recording the They Stole My Crayon Album

During a weekend toward the end of September 2012, my longterm ladyfriend Christina Lee and I were chilling here at my home, and our mutual friend Bunny Knutson was hanging out too. This was a pretty common occurrence; even though Bunny lives up in the Valley and we're down here in the South Bay, we often liked to get together and jam some tunes and so on. Anyway, on that particular weekend, we were improvising some music with laughably depressing themes, and joking with each other about the idea of a fictional band that made the saddest possible music. We even invented a name for this band of sorrow: They Stole My Crayon. The plan, as we now laugh about hilariously, was to do a super-fast album that we'd record and mix ourselves, and have out a few months later, by the end of 2012.

That Didn't Happen
The reason that, three-and-a-half years later, the album still isn't out, is actually a great one. See, instead of just spitting out a bunch of sloppily-written, shoddily-recorded songs, we found that the songs we were writing were better than we thought they'd be. Way better. As we kept writing and creating songs, we found out what our band actually sounded like, and it sounded really good. We got into a groove and continued writing new songs that worked within this new sound we'd found.

And, of course, we all had other things going on, like jobs and families and stuff. To be completely honest, we spent the first couple of years working on Crayon music only sporadically, and didn't start devoting a bunch of time to They Stole My Crayon until the start of 2015, when we really dove in and began refining our songs... re-recording rough demos, paring down our initial list of tunes to a tighter group of songs that would make the album, and so on. Later in 2015, we realized that we needed to step up the quality level of the recordings, so we booked two weekends' worth of sessions with Phil O'Keefe at Sound Sanctuary to re-do all of the vocals on the album. Meanwhile, we'd contracted our friend Spencer Crewe to handle the mixing duties.

Finally, after all the vocals were done, we felt compelled to go back and re-do a good number of the instrument tracks to better align with the newly-great quality of the voices. That part of the process went all the way through until yesterday... April 9, 2016. That's when we wrapped up the last notes of the final song to hand off to Spencer.

Now What?
It's pretty simple, and I've explained this pretty recently, but here is the short version again. Spencer still has eight more songs to mix. After all the mixes are complete and we're all happy, the album needs to be mastered (which should be a relatively quick process, he said hopefully). At that point, we need to make a final decision regarding how the album will be distributed. As it currently stands, we want the album to become available for people to hear this summer. And sure, there are other things for us to do... like getting videos made for several of our songs, adding to our currently rather empty web site, trying to get radio stations to play our music, trying to get the album reviewed, and much more. But the fact that the album is finally done being recorded is a big milestone, so we are all pretty giddy with delight for now.

If you've not done so already, you can like The Crayon on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. As we get closer to the release date, we'll let everyone know.

Monday, April 4, 2016

How I Spent My Kat-Less Weekend

Like a whole bunch of you, I work for a living, and I work hard. I spend Monday through Friday doing workdays that often begin before 7AM and often end past 9PM. I work for myself, and in my experience, people tend to work harder and longer for themselves than they will for anyone else. So, I own this little company that does marketing communications for the musical instrument, professional audio, broadcast, and related industries. It's a good way to make a living, I believe. I write, and create graphic designs, and I handle all manner of content creation and distribution for a variety of good clients.

Anyway, it keeps me busy during the week, and so I purposefully try and make sure I'm doing anything but work when it comes to Saturday and Sunday (though occasionally, despite my best intentions, I still have to do some weekend work). Weekends are times when I can focus on things I want to do, rather than have to do. That almost always involves doing things with my lady of the last 10+ years, Kat. However, this particular weekend, she was up in Seattle visiting her family, which includes two new additions over the past year (her nephew who just turned one, and her baby niece who she only just met).

That left me on my own after dropping her off at LAX on Friday afternoon. What kind of shenanigans did I do in her absence? Not a lot, but some worth mentioning in any case.

1. Horace and Pete
Flashback to Saturday January 30. I -- along with every other person who is a fan of comedian Louis C.K. -- discovered that he had created a new show called "Horace and Pete". Like Louis's recent comedy specials, the show was only available via purchase on his site. Kat and I were chilling here as usual on that Saturday. In fact, I had just wrapped up the NAMM Show the previous weekend, and nothing sounded better to me than clearing out my stressed-out brain by watching an original show from a guy who, in my opinion, is the best comic of his generation by far. It would, doubtlessly, be hilarious.

So we purchased the show, downloaded it, and... what the hell is this? It's not a comedy. It's more like a theatrical production, except it's filmed like a sitcom, except there's no laugh track, and there wouldn't be a lot to laugh about if there was. I found it completely intriguing. Enthralling, in fact. And the caliber of actors involved! Steve Buscemi. Edie Falco. Alan Alda. Jessica Lange. Appearances by Steven Wright. Laurie Metcalf. Colin Quinn. All delivering their best work I've ever seen. We had no idea how often Louis would be producing new episodes, or how long the show would last. But from that first episode, we were hooked. As it turned out, Louis would release a new "Horace and Pete" each Saturday morning for the subsequent nine weeks. Each weekend, we'd get out of bed, make our coffee, and then immediately buy, download, and watch the latest episode.

Louis C.K. and Edie Falco in a scene toward the end of "Horace and Pete", once of the best dramatic presentations I've ever experienced.

The series never lost its level of intensity, and in fact grew more and more captivating as it went on. Week after week, like kids who jump out of bed to see a Saturday morning cartoon, Kat and I raced to the computer to see what would happen next. For perspective, keep something in mind: I don't watch television at all. Yup, I'm one of those weirdos. But this wasn't TV; nothing like this had ever been on TV. I'm still not sure what it is... or was, more appropriately.

This Saturday morning, despite being busy (as you'll see below), I watched episode #10 of "Horace and Pete", which turned out to be the finale... something the collective watchers of the show didn't discover until the very end. I won't tell you what it's about, this show. I certainly won't tell you how it ends. I will tell you that it might be the finest dramatic production I've ever seen. However, and this is an important caveat: if you are prone to depression, please be careful about watching this series. There are only two kinds of drama: comedy and tragedy, and this is a tragedy that is on par with the darkest works of Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, or Eugene O'Neill. It might be worth it regardless (I certainly think so), but I don't want anyone going into a downward spiral based on my recommendation of this show. Consider yourself forewarned.

One final note: the New York Times seems to agree with my assessment of the show. Plenty of spoilers here, just so you know.

2. Time with Dad and Son
Unlike Horace's dad (shhh, no spoilers), my dad is a good guy. I really have no complaints about my upbringing. Were my parents perfect? No, of course not, but no one is, and mine were a helluva lot better than many I've seen. Anyway, my dad was born in January 1941, making him 75 years old. People have different ways of dealing with aging and the inevitable finite aspect of life. Some people try and stay healthy, visit doctors often, and take all manner of steps to try and ensure that their last wishes are carried out after they pass. My dad does none of those things. I could have tried more, I suppose, to change the person he is, but to be frank, a) I don't necessarily find it appropriate for children to take over their parents' lives except under extreme circumstances, and b) he wouldn't have listened to me anyway.

So, as opposed to seeing a lawyer and drafting up a will, my dad decided to come by and go over a list of his worldly possessions. Fun, huh? Good times. Let's chat about what stuff you have so I'm aware of it when you die. Way to make my weekend happy, especially after that devastating final episode of "Horace and Pete". At the same time, I knew that accommodating my father's wish in this regard was actually the best thing I could do for him under the circumstances, so at noon sharp (my dad is never late for anything, a trait that I picked up from him), he popped up at my door. We spent a little while going over some documents he'd put together. Everything seemed clear enough. Not for the first time, I told him that the preferable and more effective solution to this was to get a will created, but he's one of those guys that thinks he'll die immediately upon completion of solidifying his last wishes. So, on the bright side, we got to spend some time together. Honestly, at age 75, he seems pretty healthy to me. I wouldn't know for sure, since I think he last went to a doctor in 1978 or so.

After our discussion was done, my son joined us as we drove down the street to a diner in King Harbor, and had lunch. After that, we headed down to the beach and enjoyed the fresh breeze coming off the Pacific for a short while. It was a pretty good time, and somewhat less morbid than I'd anticipated.

Enjoying a moment on the Esplanade here in lovely Redondo Beach with my son and my dad.

3. New Music
I can write music with Kat being here, and often do, and especially considering that we're in a band together (called They Stole My Crayon, by the way), it's something we both enjoy doing. However, there are aspects to songwriting that just require a level of solo concentration, and it's not super fun or exciting for anyone not directly involved in putting together chord progressions, building drum ideas, and so on. Kat will often use those times to go catch up on her reading, or napping, and I don't blame her.

Recording a guitar part on a new in-progress song.

Anyway, I was alone this weekend, and feeling a little spark of inspiration, I went to work on a new song. I think it came out pretty good. I'm not going to let you hear it because I've now handed it off to Kat and Bunny so they can work on lyrics and a melody and all that stuff. It's by no means done. But it's always a welcome thing when a new song comes around to say hello. It's not something you can force to happen, but when it does, you have to be willing to drop everything else and capture that moment. I did, and listening to what I created over the weekend makes Monday morning a little less terrible.

4. Picking Up Kat
Of course I picked up Kat from LAX on Sunday evening. Picking up your significant other from the airport is toward the front of the "How Not To Be The Asshole In A Relationship" handbook. We got to enjoy a little time together that night, and she watched the "Horace and Pete" finale that she'd missed on Saturday while out of town (though I had to leave the room during a crucial scene toward the end, since I couldn't handle the thought of seeing it again). I made us some spaghetti for dinner, and that was pretty much the end of the weekend.

So, that was it. And now I'm getting ready to start a new week. I know it doesn't sound like a very relaxing time, but if I learned anything from "Horace and Pete", it's that life is meant to be lived, as opposed to being passively observed. I can honestly say that I've been pretty good at being an active participant in my own life, even if sometimes it seems like it would be easier sitting here and watching it pass by.