In the morning before our long drive to Florence, guitarist Lyman woke dreaming of zombies and a world segregated into vegetarian and constantly hungry, brain-eating zombies. Violinist Julie had a terrible dream about a job interview and making spreadsheets, in her words "a wasted dream" while traveling in Italy. Violist Heather keeps on dreaming of tasty meats, smoked sides of ham, pigeon pies
and cornish hens.
On the long drive from Naples to Florence it was my turn to dream twistedly. I snoozed in the sun in the van until the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped, I woke up cold and confused and with a massive headache. I dreamt I worked at Ikea and I was up for a promotion, but first I had to pass a physical. The attending nurse detected that my spinal fluid was low, so she hooked me up to an IV and inserted a spinal tap. While I laid there in bent discomfort, friends and acquaintances came by and rubbed my fore head. At one point someone started singing quietly in my ear, I looked up to find Bjork smiling down at me.
But its my brain in my waking hours that keeps on gyrating as if dreaming...
I assumed from the very beginning that the disappearance of our luggage was no accident, that it must have been 'displaced' on purpose, on the sly. Perhaps an inside job? (Remember- there are no coincidences). Were we the guinea pigs to a sinister Karl Rove, mind control, kind of plot? Secret governments/ organization/ syndicates trying to pin some international crime on us -just because they can!- an act accomplished by simply doctoring and packing our bags, guitars, toothpaste with something only evil-doers would pack. But something I've learned, the hard way, on the mean streets of LA, driving those wretchedly cracked freeways, trying to share the road with gargantuan SUV's, gargantuan egos, and gargantuan film companies screwing up traffic at their will at every turn, (as if they built this entertainment capitol of the world!), for their precious movie shoots.
Bungled is a great word, its one of those words that even if you're not sure of the definition, just the sound -'bungled' - quickly gets you to the gist of the situation. What Bungled is, is not a great situation.
Right now I'm in Italy on tour with the LA's own Listing Ship, and by no fault of our own... and I swear its wasn't our fault ( though historically there are two essential elements built into any band; incompetence and eventual obsolescences... these truths are perhaps not so written in stone if you play in the Rolling Stones or The Lawrence Welk Orchestra) ... anyway, somewhere along the line all our luggage disappeared. Somewhere between the sunny palm tree lined dystopia we call home and the airport called the worst in Europe, Rome, all twelve pieces of our luggage vanished off the face of the earth.
Those of us who grew up on the west coast blamed it on our stop-over in New York's JKF airport, those of us who grew up on the east coast blamed it on the airport in Los Angeles ... our Italian friends blamed it on the airport in Rome. Ultimately it appears to have been yet another bungled moment for an airline we'll call "American Err-lines" ... All twelve pieces gone. Poof! We filled out the paperwork and were assured that somehow the heavens will open and our luggage will fall though a worm whole, magically appearing on the front steps of our Managers apartment in Naples the next morning. But 24 hours later no record of our luggage - bags, guitars, drum gear- existed anywhere, online or otherwise.
We played our first gig at the Cantina Mediterraneo in Frosinone... with borrowed gear, and I have to say incredibly nice gear! It doesn't get much better than this. Thanks to the excellent opening band, The Mosquitos, based in Naples, we played through gorgeous Fender amps and electric guitarist Lyman
was greeted with a vintage Gold Top Gibson Les Paul to play. When Lyman opened the guitar case a beautiful golden light filled the back wall of the stage, and I swear I heard a litany of cellos quietly filling the air ... and a voice, a deep resonating voice that said something profound in Italian, but I don't understand Italian. I'm not sure what was more inspiring for our first show in Italy, the great gear we were using or the 5 course meal the club provided for us. And the wine... the wine! Like the great river Euphrates, the purest waters from the river flowing from of the garden of Eden, the flowering of civilization, the flowering of sin, wine bringing us back back to life, yeah baby...wine wine wine!!! we knew everything would be copacetic.
No Prince, no Funkadelic, not even metal or punk rock. A bunch of bad 80’s videos with a bunch of rich suburban kids in the audience doing that new wave dance. It was depressing, but since they took off the reruns of The White Shadow and replaced it with MV3, there was nothing else better to watch.
There was one song I wanted to like. It was Thomas Dolby’s She Blinded Me With Science. The video was so goofy I was embarrassed to like it, even though it was funky. A few days later I went to the park and all the breakers were pop locking it to it. I figured if they liked it, it wasn’t so bad. My sister had the first Thomas Dolby record and I started to listen to it more than her. Outside of the annoying song, Europa, I liked it. Still, I kept in the closet about my love for the TB, except for a few friends.
When the second Thomas Dolby album, The Flat Earth came out, I bought it right away. I didn’t like the single, Hyperactive. It sounded like a weak attempt at The Talking Heads. The rest of the album was surprisingly chill and somewhat acoustic. It took me a bit off time to like this album, but at the end, I did. The song that hit me was Dolby’s cover of Dan Hick And His Hot Licks’ I Scare Myself. It was haunting with a slight Jazzy Brazilian feel to it. I soon went on the hunt to find the original version. When I found it I noticed that it was very different. Dolby’s version was haunting, yet calm and melodic. Dan Hicks original version sounded frantic and straight up paranoid, thus validating the title. It was a little too much for me to take at the time. Still, there was something about it that I liked.
While Latin music artists based in metropolitan cities such as Miami, Buenos Aires, and Mexico D.F. get all the press, it is the Regional Mexican groups are the ones that actually sell records. Case in point, Ramon Ayala. For over 40 years, Ramon Ayala, also known as “El Rey Del Acordeon” (The King Of The Accordion), has been selling out arenas in both Mexico and in the United States. He has over 105 releases, most of which sell in the 250,000 to 750,000 units. He’s been in thirteen movies and is a multiple Grammy winner. During his sold out show at The Gibson Theatre on Saturday, Ramon packed his two-hour set with hit after hit and had the crowd singing along to every song. Ramon played a few Los Relampagos Del Norte songs, a group he had in the sixties with the late great Bajo Sexto guitarist & vocalist, Cornelio Reyna, before forming Ramon Ayala y Sus Bravos Del Norte in 1971.
I was a little lost at this show. I’m only familiar with the early Ramon Ayala solo work. It’s like if you went to see Merle Haggard but were only familiar with a couple of his songs. He played the songs I knew, such as "Un Rinconcito En El Cielo," "Chaparra De Mi Amor" and his version of "Golondrinas," all which I have on his Greatest Hits CD that didn’t leave my car's CD player for a month. Why was it in my car CD player that long? Because of heartbreak, that’s why. When the girl (or guy) you love doesn’t love you back, nothing is better than blasting Ramon Ayala and singing the words on the top of your lungs. When he went into "Chaparra De Mi Amor," I sang loudly with everyone else and relived that pain of rejection. It’s funny because the cause of my great pain and heartache was with me at the show. She is my girlfriend now. I think she takes great joy in remembering how much she made me suffer.