Not Quite Celebrity Death Match’ (Was ‘Tools of the Trade’)
Every writer keeps certain effects within easy access when they apply their skills to the craft. Some writers take up a baseball player’s superstition; perhaps they wear lucky socks or never write on Tuesdays. Others are creatures of habit. Stephen King said they he can’t write unless he knows where the story is going to end up four hundred pages later. He attributed this to being born a Virgo, like a cosmic disposition to be constantly aware of exactly how many pieces are left in his life’s jigsaw puzzle. It’s no secret that more than a few writers have employed the use of dangerous drugs. Hunter Thompson used to like to snort high-grade speed and go on writing jags in his private den. While this approach worked for him for a while, I don’t think anyone could keep this up over the span of a career.
Personally, I find it too hard to do anything after snorting speed. That is if the one time I imbibed taught me anything. Writing would be next to impossible between my nose catching on fire, my eyes watering to put out the chemical burns, chain smoking six cigarettes at a time, and the onslaught of verbal diarrhea flying out of my mouth. Not to mention that my free hand (the one that’s not lighting, puffing, snubbing out, and lighting more cigarettes) is generally busy fetching, opening, and tilting the steady stream of beer cans to my mouth when it isn’t blabbing away. Which leaves me with very little else to type prose on a keyboard. (Three guesses as to what I’d have to use to hold the shift key down when I capitalize sentences. And no, I’m not flexible enough to use my toes…)
Not that I could write any faster with my hands. I’ll tell you something about myself that you wouldn’t even care to know: I can’t type. Even after writing a hundred and twenty page senior thesis in college, I haven’t picked up any typing skills. To this day, I still use the painfully awkward thumb-and-two-finger cop typing style that you always see in the movies when a perp is being booked. This insures that it’ll take me five times as long to write a column as anyone else on the jambands.com staff. Perhaps I should try speed again; I may even be able to stay up long enough to finish my column in one sitting, and thus on time.
Maybe not. Like other writers, I have my own list of things I need to at my best when choosing adjectives. Since I’m on the move around the country, I’ve learned to bring a set of reference materials with me. Among these necessities are: My father’s copy of the Worlds Most Tasteless Jokes, Aleister Crowley’s Magick In Theory And Practice, the latest edition of News of the Weird, Slayer CDs, and for prose style Will Jones’ Wild In the Kitchen (yet another gift from my father). Last but not least, I find it helpful to secure a twelve pack of Old Style Liquid Thesaurus.
Which is far out of my reach at the present moment, as I’m writing this from Bend Oregon’s foremost shit hole lodging facility, the Rainbow Motel. The sign outside claims that they have the best rates and the rooms are quiet and clean. Sure, clean like mind of a teenage boy and quiet because nothing works. The heater is silent because it hasn’t put in an honest day of work since Jimmy Carter held the Oval Office and the TV has been permanently muted since someone drove a screwdriver through the speaker. I knew that there would be no Old Style at the 7-11, so I thought that I might try my luck with a West Coast cheapy, perhaps Olympia or Rainier. But the wheels of fortune conspired against me: the 7-11 only had Bud, Coors, and Miller. None of these undesirables are inexpensive at $7.50 a six-pack, and the quality is for shit. I called it a draw with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. At least the label used to claim that the beer was properly kreausened.
With beer in hand, kick-ass metal blaring on the iPod, one cigarette in my mouth and another burning in the ashtray like a neglected hostage, all I needed was a topic to write about. But nothing was coming, time was wasting, and Herr Schwartz is getting anxious.
As ludicrous as it sounds, I was suffering a nice case of writer’s block. I always thought one would have to be a good writer to be afflicted by such a malady. Since I fall into the "no brains no headaches" department of humanity, any subject worth scribbling about presents more than enough material to elaborate upon. Shit, I’ve committed petty crimes in the name of manufacturing plots for this column. What could be the problem now?
Then I realized the obvious: I’ve been on tour so long that nothing unusual has happened to me. My situation is akin to the daily grind of any lifestyle when one falls into a routine. I’ve become a bore!
Furthermore, I’ve come to realize that being a touring musician is a lot like being a cop. Yes, that’s right, a cop. On the surface, the two career paths couldn’t appear to be any more different. But close inspection reveals that both jobs consist of 95% boredom and 5% adrenaline freak-out.
Think about a cop’s life: sitting around and jacking off while waiting at a speed trap, filling out endless reams of paper work for every infraction imaginable, twiddling thumbs in court, etc. A musician’s life on the road is fairly similar. Twenty-two hours a day is spent driving to a gig, waiting for sound check, ordering dinner, sleeping, waking, boring people who aren’t homesick on a cell phone, blah-blah-blah… Whichever way you go, the reward comes with the big bust, or in my case, not getting busted on stage (or backstage).
Before you get the idea that I’ve become so jaded that music means nothing more to me than a day job to avoid getting a real job, I’d like to state that the real difference between cops and musicians is we guitar strummers have much richer inner-lives. Where we make our livings off of creativity, cops capitalize on the lack of originality within a criminal’s master plan.
For me, it’s the creative process that carries me through the thin hours on the road. However, being creative doesn’t necessarily mean I’m generating art, such as a song that makes you shake your ass, (or a column handed in on time…) After all, art is an end and creativity is a means. Creativity is to puppy-love what art is to your first blow job. Either way, I needed to get creative, and fast, lest Jon Schwartz demotes me from Big Wu bassist to his personal hairdresser.
While sucking beers and channel surfing with a buddy in a hotel room, I spied a terrific program on MTV called Celebrity Death Match. The show features claymation mock-ups of famous people fight to the death in a wresting ring, formalities be damned. Ozzy vs. Elton John, Hillary Clinton vs. Lewinski, Saddam vs. Bush, and so on. Since it was animation, the opponents knocked each other’s heads off, defiled one another in unique ways, and countered physical attacks with personal jabs just for pure entertainment value.
Upon seeing this, I belted praises toward the sky. What could be better than witnessing the full-on ridicule of America’s worst personalities? Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that Larry Flynt’s free speech couldn’t be negated just because he published a cartoon of Jerry Falwell losing his virginity to his mother in an outhouse, character assassination of our rich and famous become a national sport.
And let me tell you, it was entertaining. But I still needed something to muse over for my column. So with the help the Putting Nazi in my room, I give to you a jam band version of that splendiferous program on MTV, complete with Vegas odds.
That being said, I give you the ultimate battle of the bands:
"Not Quite Celebrity Death Match"
(Padre’s Disclaimer: The speculations below are for entertainment value only, mostly mine. The match-ups detailed in my fantasy claymation contests don’t reflect any personal feelings about their personalities or talent, (except Paris Hilton). All parties are ridiculed equally. So if you are the kind of person who gets offended by anything more satirical than a Ralph Nader political tract (assuming that he’s kidding, isn’t he?) stop reading. Not that there is anything wrong with being a sensitive human being, but I need to entertain myself.) *Particle vs. Sound Tribe Sector 9 *
If memory serves me correctly, both bands have members with dietary restrictions, i.e.: someone would get very sick if they adhered to nature’s perfect meal- rare sirloin and single-malt scotch. That aside, Particle gets the edge because they have my former tour manager Wil Simon, in their employ. He’s stout and racked with muscle, mostly from carrying and loading my bass amps when I disappeared to drink Old Style after shows.
Vegas Odds: Particle 5-2 *String Cheese vs. Left Over Salmon *
I’m favoring Salmon mostly on their propensity to show up at every festival in North America, play two full sets, an encore or seven, and then reload with acoustic guitars and glow sticks, go from campsite-to-campsite and play even more music until dawn. While this super-human stamina makes Salmon a contender, the SCI boys may be holding a couple of wild cards that could turn the tide within the squared circle. Who among us truly knows the extent of Mike’s Kang-Fu? Also, I think Bill Nershi’s Grizzly Adams aura could be a force to reckon with. If he can talk to and influence bears, (and I privately suspect he can), Leftover may get sent up the river.
Vegas Odds: Left Over Salmon 3-1 *Phil Lesh & Friends vs. The Dead *
Not a big spread within the odds, but everyone knows that Billy Kreutzmann is no stranger to fisticuffs.
Vegas Odds: The Dead 2-1 *Phish vs. Paris Hilton *
Internet tape trading superstars vs. the Internet pincushion of night vision photography. What a match-up! But if Fishman is half as much fun as his reputation suggests, one may surmise that Vermont’s Finest might throw a dive in the fifth round. Even if Fred Durst threw Hilton a folding chair when the ref isn’t looking, it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps Page could give Freddy a kick in his Limp Biscuit. While I’m sure this bout would be sold out, I’ll leave it up to you to christen this battle "Bittersweet Motel Indeed!" or "You Enjoy Myself Ahoy!"
Vegas Odds: Paris Hilton 8-1
Big Wu vs. Big Wu
What could be more entertaining than watching myself get knocked around by myself? To make matters worse, I know that I’d also be standing ringside throwing folding chairs and brass knuckles to myself as reek further havoc upon myself. Who says wresting is just for rednecks? Apparently, it’s for bass players as well.
Vegas Odds: Off the Books
This month’s recipe, which isn’t a recipe at all, comes from the fore-mentioned Wild In The Kitchen, by Will Jones. The book was published in 1961 when Mr. Jones served as the food critic for the Minneapolis Tribune. While time has passed and food has gotten fancier, the Jones approach to cooking and eating is as contemporary as I could ask for. My father (a terrific cook in his own right) loves this book enough to find and purchase a copy for all of his children. Below is Mr. Jones theory on the proper breakfast:
Just so you know my heart is in this matter, I want to tell you what I had for breakfast before sitting down to write this chapter: Grapefruit, a hotdog, spiced pears, green salad, potato chips, coconut cream pie and tea.
Breakfast is an institution that needs some jazzing up. I don’t particularly recommend the picnic leftovers I’ve listed. But I do recommend the spirit the spirit of such a breakfast…
Okay, I can’t resist. Wild In The Kitchen actually has a chapter titled The Failures. Below is the recipe for "Minnow Pancakes".
For those who don’t know, a minnow is a baby fish used for bait in Minnesota. My father said he and some buddies tried this concoction even though it was clearly under the Failures chapter. You can predict the results.
WIL JONES MINNOW PANCAKES
1 LB MINNOWS
1 CLOVE GARLIC, CHOPPED
2 TABLESPOONS PARSLEY
1/2 CUP BREAD CRUMBS
1 TEASPOON CHOPPED BASIL
3 TABLESPOONS GRATED ROMANO CHEESE
1 CUP FLOUR
1/2 CUP PEANUT OIL
Clean and wash minnows, mix ingredients, throw up, discard this mess, drink more Old Style until you come to your head and order a pizza.
This month’s Old Style Zealot is a cute Irish girl who is mixed up in a relationship with my brother. That aside, she’s wearing an Old Style hat that was bestowed upon by a fan who claimed "I stole it from my Grandpa!"
Lord, please forgive him…