Monday, February 26, 2018

On Growing Up Walt Disney

When I was growing up, every Sunday night, there was a television show called The Wonderful World of Disney. Maybe you remember it. It was always hosted by Walt Disney (despite the fact that Disney passed away two years before I was born) and Mr. Disney, Walt, was my first and is still my longest lasting hero. When my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him I wanted to be Walt Disney. I learned how to draw the Disney characters at a very young age and I used to dazzle my friends and schoolmates with my drawings.

My dad wanted more for me. He told me there were more starving artists than there were anything else.

What he didn't get was I didn't want to be JUST an artist. I wanted to BE Walt Disney.

Fast-forward to the late-eighties. I was working in a factory (Douglas Aircraft), about as far away as I could have ever imagined from being Walt Disney. But it wasn't a secret that I was both a Disney fan and an artist. Many told me I needed to go down to the Disney studio and "go get a job there," as if that was all there was to it. And, at the time, I would have been thrilled to be offered the opportunity. However, I didn't have the schooling and there was no way in. It wasn't like it was in the 20s and the 30s where "decent" artists just showed up at "Disney's" and showed a handful of drawings to a guy and was given a desk. This was Eisner's Disney. Pretty much a different place altogether.

Another thing many people at the airplane factory told me stuck though. "They sure don't make comic strips like they used to. Have you read the comic strips in the newspaper lately? They're not even funny."

Challenge accepted.

At the time, I was reading Disney comics reprinted by Gladstone publishing and Disney was starting to branch out and publish their own new comics, much of it based on the Disney Afternoon batch of characters. I had grown up reading Carl Barks' Donald Duck comic books. And I was a bit of a punster myself. Ren and Stimpy was tweaking the heck out of cartoon expectations and I decided I wanted to fall somewhere in between. I wanted to have a character that was antagonistic and cutting-edge, but maybe the rest of the cast of my characters would be more like Disney characters. And I landed on the idea of a Pet Peeve. And since he's a pet, he's got to be someone's pet. I had always loved Tolkien's books and fantasy in general. My brother was very involved in the local Rennaissance Faires. So I set my fictional world in a fractured fairy tale-like fantasy world that was populated with cartoon versions of knights, elves, dwarves and dragons. And since Peeve had to be someone's pet in order for the pun to work, I made Peeve's straight man a pudgy little elf named Elvin. And that's how "Elvin's Pet Peeve" came to mind.

The idea was to do a series of comic strips and have them syndicated to the newspapers the same way Peanuts, Ziggy and Garfield was.

I studied hard. I studied copyright and trademark law. I studied how the Disney artists used to draw their comic strips. And I studied syndication and distribution of comic strips. I even stopped by the Long Beach Press-Telegram offices to see if I could interest them in running my comic strip locally (they weren't interested). In the meantime, hoping for a grass-roots interest, I put my high school print shop knowledge to work and made T-Shirts, caps, and other screen-printed items. I even sponsored a softball team and had a four-page newsletter that co-workers took home to their kids. I was so convinced Peeve was going to be a hit, I bought a personalized license plate for my car that said PEEVE. I wanted to get it before someone else did!

I was highly motivated. I drew 185 Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips as well as three and a half comic book-style stories (there were four, but only three were fully-inked) before I shelved it to focus on going to school for graphic design (I decided to study graphic design, which was something I excelled at in high school) after I was laid off from Douglas.

From there, I went into a graphic design career, holding Art Director positions at a swimwear company, web design company, screen printing company and then moving into advertising. I revisited Peeve briefly when I was working on potential animated properties with Joe White. But then I moved to Colorado, got married, had a kid, etc. All the things that one does when one grows up.

And then life hit me like a bus.

My wife of ten and a half years was gone. My daughter was fast-approaching her teenage years and I was left with little more than a handful of unrealized dreams.

And a box full of Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips. All sealed in plastic.

And I realized that this is a wonderful time to be an artist. We have the Internet. We have Do It Yourself filmmaking, publishing, print-on-demand books, T-shirts, digital studio-quality recording, wide-reaching distribution. The only limits are your imagination, inventiveness and wherewithal to get off your tail and do good work.

So I found myself pondering what to do with it all. And, after much prayer and soul-searching, inspiration struck. I'm gonna do it all! And I'm going to tie it all together with the re-launch of the TV show that I did right after Lori passed away (The Creative Underground... it started out as an online radio show in Colorado Springs, CO, then was part of PADNET, Long Beach's cable-access channel and aired simultaneously on my YouTube channel). With the re-launch of The Creative Underground YouTube channel, now focusing mostly on what I'm doing (although I'm sure I'll highlight other artists from time to time, as has been my want), I've come full circle to that kid who's head took up most of the TV every Sunday night.

I have my chance to be Walt Disney!

Everything I'm doing I've cribbed from my hero. His TV show was basically a commercial for whatever the studio was doing. And that's what I'm doing too. It is my hope that you come away inspired to do your own BEST creative work.

So check out the show. Every week, we're going to go behind the scenes on something I'm working on, be it the "Elvin's Pet Peeve" comic strip (which should be soon available to view every week at the soon-to-be redesigned paulcarhart.com), my writing (check out my books at Amazon), or my music (which may or may include my cohorts in Third World Sun... I'm using a piece of one of the band's new songs as the Creative Underground's new theme song).

This week, we're gonna watch me draw the first "Elvin's Pet Peeve" comic strip since 1992. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to watch.

Also, please note: Just as I've left all of my blog posts here on this blog from over the years, all five of the previous Long-Beach Creativity-based episodes (1x01-1x05) of The Creative Underground video show are still available on the YouTube channel. If you're so inclined, just scroll on down to find them. Also, I think there are a couple clips of the band as well that I hosted there when the channel was more or less dormant. I left them there for your enjoyment. The new episodes are labeled 2x01 and 2x02, etc.).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Update!

Yes. I know. The year has barely begun. And I had a bunch of things (see my previous post) that I was hoping to wrap up in 2017 and begin in 2018 and then... I hit the speed bumps. 

First, when I got off work on Friday, December 22, I went straight home to export my Peeve T-shirt artwork and upload it... only to find out my version of Photoshop was expired. What the heck? And in order to get a new version, I needed to get the latest Mac OS (High Sierra). So I started downloading the new OS, and it was taking forever, eventually timing out! After a couple days of troubleshooting, I realized that it must have been my bandwidth through my wi-fi. As an aside, we own a 1915 two-story (three if you count the basement that we use as a rehearsal studio for the band) Craftsman house that is built like a bunker (lots of thick redwood).

But before I could resolve THAT, I got sick!

In order to resolve the wi-fi issue, I would have to bring my computer from upstairs down to where the high speed internet modem is and plug into it. And since I was not feeling well, I didn't feel like carting that sucker downstairs. So I put my Amazon Prime membership to work and ordered a one hundred foot ethernet cable and paid the extra six dollars for next day delivery. I hooked the cable up to the modem, ran it up the staircase and plugged it in. Turned off the wi-fi and downloaded everything I needed lickity-split.

In the meantime, I had to get well enough to play Third World Sun's last show of the year on New Year's Eve at Angel City in Bellflower.

So here's a break-down, an update if you will, as to where I'm at on all these things I was hoping to do over my two-week break. 

Producing new Third World Sun material
I'll be taking the tracks that Third World Sun recorded (so far a total of 11 new songs) and cleaning them up for future instrument overdubbing.
I did this. There might be five left to do. But I'll squeeze them in over the next couple weeks between other projects.

Elvin's Pet Peeve T-shirts
I expect to get two brand new Peeve T-shirt designs produced and available online.
Done. There's a nee "Peeve's Back" shirt (double-sided) and a new Sir Loin Emotions shirt (featuring Sir Loin of Beefe). Both are available at my Elvin's Pet Peeve online store.

New Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips
I haven't drawn a new comic strip in quite a while. I have, however, now storyboarded 13 new comic strips and I expect to draw the first BRAND NEW Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strip in 25 years.
I did NOT get around to drawing the first new Peeve comic strip in 25 years. However, I AM up to 15 comic strips storyboarded now.

The NEW paulcarhart.com
I'll also be designing a facelift for my website that will better point people into the various facets of work I'll be doing in the coming year. 
No movement here.

Re-Launching The Creative Underground YouTube channel
The idea is to put out a weekly 10-15 behind-the-scenes video on whatever it is I'm doing that week. 
No movement here, although we did shoot video footage of me drawing the "Peeve's Back" T-shirt artwork for an upcoming video. Hoping to re-launch this in mid-January.

A Stranger At The Gallows (Worlds Collide #2)
There are only four stinking chapters left and I outlined the entire story from the get-go! I have no excuse. With two weeks' break coming up, I will be facing compete and utter failure if I can't wrap this book up. At least the first draft. Once that's done, it's all about the editing.
No movement here. Complete and utter failure on this front. Also, I need to line up my cover artist. I know who I want to do it, but I hope she's not too busy and is still willing.

Returning to the studio with the rest of Third World Sun
We've been recording new songs and there are two left ("Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Is A Name").
We DID go back into the studio and put down the drum tracks for the two remaining songs.

Family time
As usual, I'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Melody and my extended family.
Did this.

The Last Jedi
I look forward to partaking in fan theory weaving and debate with my brother-in-law as we did after the release of The Force Awakens.
Many theories were bandied about. I didn't see the film again, however.

Music outside of the band
I've written a lot of songs that we don't do in the band. I'm toying with recording a batch of them and releasing them myself. I'll start preliminary work on that once the Third World Sun drum tracks are cleaned up.
No movement here. 

Something new. Something Nasti
At least several hours of one day this break will be dedicated to brainstorming a business venture with one of my closest friends. More info to come when I'm at liberty to do so.
I'll be doing this over THIS three-day weekend.

New Year's Eve tradition
Third World Sun will be playing, for the fourth consecutive year, New Year's Eve at Angel City in Bellflower, CA.
Did this.

The Musical Journey
I'll be taking Melody, at her request, to see Hugh Jackman's latest film, The Greatest Showman, from the people who brought you Dear Evan Hansen and the music in La La Land.
Did this. The film was inspirational!

The Happiest Place On Earth
Hopefully, there'll be a visit to Disneyland in the coming weeks as well. It's been a couple months since I've been. And I'm going through withdrawal.
Did not get to this. Ended up helping a friend in need for a few days instead. Hoping to return to Disneyland near the end of January.

Classic Peeve
I'll also start the arduous task of scanning all of the original 185 Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips so they can appear online once the website gets it's facelift. I'm also hoping these original 1991 and 1992 comic strips will make their way into book form followed by a third book of the NEW ones.
No movement here. But will start this month. 

Peeve Nerdiness
There are also two or three Peeve comic book-style stories--I believe one of them still needs to be inked--that I'd like to scan and figure out how to get into the hands of the public as well.
No movement here. But hoping to start next month.
 
What to write next?
I've got many options. Psychick 2? Fairlight 4? Planetfall vol 2? Start the Melody Midnight children's books?
Haven't' even contemplated this yet. But it will be bouncing around my brain as I move forward.  It's only a matter of time (and effort). 

So that's where things stand. Lots to do and see coming up. Stay tuned and rock on!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Looking Forward To 2018

Expounding on a recent Facebook post I made...
So, what am I looking forward to as we go into 2018?

Producing new Third World Sun material
This weekend, I'll be taking the tracks that Third World Sun recorded (so far a total of 11 new songs) and cleaning them up for future instrument overdubbing. Will we get around to laying down the additional instrument tracks this year? Probably not. But look for a song released digitally very likely in the first couple months of 2018. Since it seems like many or most people download or stream their music these days, we may do a few digital releases before we put out an entire new CD. I'm old-school though. I like having the CD. 

Elvin's Pet Peeve T-shirts

I expect to get two brand new Peeve T-shirt designs produced and available online this weekend. So stay tuned for an announcement on that. The artwork for both designs is done. So it's just a matter of setting up the Paul Carhart store and putting the shirts together. Shouldn't take too long and it's one more a step in the right direction for feeding the monster.

New Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips

Yes. I've done some new Peeve artwork recently but I haven't drawn a new comic strip in quite a while. I have, however, now storyboarded 13 new comic strips and there will be more to come. So, I expect to draw the first BRAND NEW Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strip in 25 years this weekend. And I expect the effort to be recorded (see The Creative Underground below).

The NEW paulcarhart.com

I'll also be designing a facelift for my website that will better point people into the various facets of work I'll be doing in the coming year. I probably won't implement this facelift until early next year, however but at that time I'll be...

Re-Launching The Creative Underground YouTube channel
The idea is to put out a weekly 10-15 behind-the-scenes video on whatever it is I'm doing that week. Might be cartooning. Might be writing. Might be music. I hope you'll tune in.

A Stranger At The Gallows (Worlds Collide #2)
There are only four stinking chapters left and I outlined the entire story from the get-go! I have no excuse. With two weeks' break coming up, I will be facing compete and utter failure if I can't wrap this book up. At least the first draft. Once that's done, it's all about the editing.

Returning to the studio with the rest of Third World Sun

Third World Sun's blog just recently got an update. And that's not the only thing band-related that's new. We've been recording new songs and there are two left ("Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Is A Name") that we didn't get to the last two times we went into the studio. So we're going to do that on the day after Christmas. That will bring the total we've recorded since the last CD (not counting the cover of Air Supply's "Don't Be Afraid") to thirteen.

Family time

As usual, I'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Melody and my extended family. This usually takes place at my sister's family's house and I don't think that will differ this year.

The Last Jedi
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a Star Wars fan from the time I was ten years old. So I'm hopeful that we'll see The Last Jedi one more time (I actually liked it) in the theater... maybe in Dolby Cinema with my sister's family on Christmas Eve prior to the feast. THEN, I look forward to partaking in fan theory weaving and debate with my brother-in-law as we did after the release of The Force Awakens.

Music outside of the band
I've written a lot of songs that we don't do in the band. I'm toying with recording a batch of them and releasing them myself. I'll start preliminary work on that once the Third World Sun drum tracks are cleaned up.

Something new. Something Nasti

At least several hours of one day this break will be dedicated to brainstorming a business venture with one of my closest friends. More info to come when I'm at liberty to do so.

New Year's Eve tradition
Third World Sun will be playing, for the fourth consecutive year, New Year's Eve at Angel City in Bellflower, CA. We'll be ringing in the New Year with distortion! Come out and join us. We go on around 10:30-ish. Click for more info.

The Musical Journey

Also, probably after Christmas, I think I'll be taking Melody, at her request, to see Hugh Jackman's latest film, The Greatest Showman, from the people who brought you Dear Evan Hansen and the music in La La Land.

The Happiest Place On Earth
Hopefully, there'll be a visit to Disneyland in the coming weeks as well. It's been a couple months since I've been. And I'm going through withdrawal.
Classic Peeve
I'll also start the arduous task of scanning all of the original 185 Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips so they can appear online once the website gets it's facelift. I'm also hoping these original 1991 and 1992 comic strips will make their way into book form followed by a third book of the NEW ones. 
Peeve Nerdiness
There are also two or three Peeve comic book-style stories--I believe one of them still needs to be inked--that I'd like to scan and figure out how to get into the hands of the public as well. And, who knows, maybe there'll be more of those to come too. 
What to write next?
Once I complete the first draft for A Stranger At The Gallows, I'll need to decide what to write next. I've got many options. Psychick 2? Fairlight 4? Planetfall vol 2? Start the Melody Midnight children's books? If you have an opinion, let's hear it. Convince me!

Lots to look forward to and reasons to get up in the morning in 2018! Rock on! - PMC

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thoughts on Hamilton
There's a million things I haven't done...
But just you wait...

Melody is REALLY into musicals now. In particular, she really likes Dear Evan Hansen, Heathers: The Musical, Be More Chill and Lin Manuel Miranda's game-changing Hamilton.

If you've seen Disney's Moana, you've heard some of his work (he's one of the songwriters for the film and his voice is in the song at the end). 

Last night, I took her to see Hamilton at The Pantages in Hollywood.

This has been coming for some time. Melody has been playing the soundtrack on YouTube around the house for months. Finally, I purchased the soundtrack for her and now it's in the car too. The rest of these musicals aren't playing locally or touring on the west coast at this time. But the Hamilton touring company has been parked in Hollywood since August.

So I really had no excuse not to take her. Hamilton is literally her favorite thing right now. Far more important than her favorite band (Twenty One Pilots). My only remaining excuse was monetary. Hamilton seats do not come cheap and it's still selling out only two weeks from the end of its four-month Hollywood run.

Of all of the things I've exposed Melody to since Lori's passing, I feel that musical theater is probably the most Lori-ish thing I could have done. Lori loved the theater. She would play music from Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story on the piano in our living room and get Melody to sing along with her. We all went together to see Les Miserebles. Melody was just little at the time but it still sticks with her. In fact, now that I think of it, I suppose it's not me doing the exposing. Lori did it. And now Melody is sort of doing it to me.

I mean, I'm not a newbie. I've seen Cats twice. I've seen Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast (also twice), Camelot and that's just off the top of my head. And just this year I took Melody to see Musical Theater West's production of Lin Manuel Miranda's first hit, In The Heights at Carpenter Center and a local production of Hunchback of Notre Dame that used the songs from the Disney film but a story that matched more-closely to Victor Hugo's original novel. This production was expertly directed by my sister-in-law, Megan O'Toole and the costumes were impeccably designed by my brother, James (Melody knows them as Aunt Megan and Uncle Jim). I told Melody earlier this year, if we're gonna start going to musicals, we're gonna at least see the ones that family is involved with first.

So financial hurdle or not, it wasn't much of an excuse to hold out any longer. I didn't really have a choice. I disguised it as part of her (our) Christmas. But really, I still bought stuff for under the tree so that's a superficial disguise. Nevertheless, I buckled down and purchased two tickets to see Hamilton. And last night, immediately after Melody's Holiday Orchestra concert, we rushed up through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, paid our $20 to park and had the cast of Hamilton put on one HECK of a show.

Melody knew all of the words. And Miranda's hip-hop-like songs lend themselves to the sing-along in a fashion that is more akin to a rock concert than musical theater. But most of the audience were not singing along. So Melody refrained. But she was bouncing up and down in her seat and cheering. Applause after every song. And tears. Tears throughout the second act up until the end. Until the end. But AT THE END, standing ovation!

Me too. Tears and standing. Both. Most impressive, Lin. Most impressive indeed.

Before we sat down, Melody and I each purchased a shirt. Melody wanted to get the one with Hamilton and Lafayette high-fiving that had the line from the play, "Immigrants, we get the job done" on it. I talked her out of it. It's a great line and relevant in the context of the story. But here's the sad state of where I live in Downtown Long Beach, California as some of the only white people we know: Someone would have given her crap for that shirt in our neighborhood. Never mind that Hamilton, who was an immigrant from the Carribbean, was as white as Melody is. And never mind that Lori's ancestry on her mother's side came over from Ireland as immigrants... making Melody directly descended from Irish settlers (Colonel Thomas Carhart came over in the late 1600s from Cornwall, England so I guess he was an immigrant too). For Melody to go around with that shirt on, I'm afraid she would have been likely been accused of "cultural appropriation" (which I think is a laugh when you consider that every historically white person in Hamilton is portrayed by a person of color). Nevertheless, I cautioned her against the shirt because I didn't want someone giving her a hard time when I'm not around to protect her.

It's too bad that Melody can't be as openly proud of her own ancestry as others are. But that's the state of the world we live in. And I'm not going to put her in harm's way so she can wear a certain shirt.

So I caved to the (perhaps non-existent, or mis-perceived) pressure. We both got the standard black shirt with the star-shaped Hamilton logo.

The show itself was fabulous. For those of you who are not familiar with Hamilton. It's a hip-hop style musical that tells the story of one of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. It uses a diverse cast to tell a story of the founding of our country then with a cast of what America looks like now. I'm okay with that. I don't judge talent by skin color. And this cast has got loads of talent. The entire cast sings, dances and acts their way through the story impeccably. It soars and it tugs at the heartstrings. The songs have a beat and, despite its hip-hop pedigree, a melody as well. Miranda did an excellent job of crafting music that has a hip-hop base but is still accessible to the average listener through engaging melodies and snappy lyrics. And, even though I had heard the soundtrack for months (there is little spoken dialogue in the entire play... almost everything is done in song, almost like an urban opera), there were still little humorous surprises for me (just about everything King George does, for example). And I appreciate that.

After the show, Melody used her allowance to buy a set of six Hamilton buttons and then we were motoring back home, pulling into the driveway around 12:30 am. Work and school for both of us the following day. But the whole thing was worth it. Even the money--and it was nothing to sneeze at--it was worth it.

One thing of note that I find encouraging: When we look at the political landscape we're in right now, it's nice to know that, even in the founding of this great country, there was just as much disagreement and political in-fighting as we see right now. That gives me hope that we can iron out our differences without (God forbid) sparking another civil war. Which is the direction it sometimes seems we're going (I got the same takeaway from Spielberg's film, Lincoln, when I saw it).

For me, an artist re-finding himself after the loss of a loved-one, the story of Hamilton was important to me. As Hamilton says when he's first introduced, "There's a million things I haven't done. But just you wait. Just you wait..."

That resonates with me. And I don't have forever to do what I want to do.

"Why do you write like you're running out of time?"

I've got a lot more to write. To say.

So as we enter into the holiday season, no matter what holidays you choose to celebrate, my challenge to you is to think on that. Find something you haven't done. Something that maybe you've always wanted to do. Or something you feel like you need to say and haven't had a chance to get it out. And find a way to do that. Or at least try it.

That's what I'm going to do. So stay tuned. I've been gearing up for a couple months now to launch a few things in 2018. Puzzle pieces are coming together. New music. Cartoons. Books. 2018 is gonna be a year of changes and shifts. New paradigms and new directions.

And I'm not throwing away my shot.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Learning To Walk Again

So I'm officially RE-STARTING this blog. However, I'm going to leave everything that's come before so it will still serve as a journey, however harrowing, back through time for those who wish to peruse it. But I've been taking a step here and a step there to move forward from the passing of my wife for many months now and I'm ready to start unveiling the flower that is threatening to blossom shortly.

If you haven't heard the Foo Fighters song, "Walk," I highly recommend giving it a good listen (Official video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PkcfQtibmU). It's definitely been my theme song for the past three and a half years. A lot is happening though and this blog will be your front-row seat to watching what I've been up to finally come to fruition.

As I take one step at a time, I'm re-learning what it is to be me... to be the me I want to be and the me I was becoming over a decade ago before I chose to take a different road. Being married changed me. It certainly wasn't all for the worse. Don't get me wrong. My family was and continues to be of paramount importance to me. But the dynamic has shifted, once again. And just as it shifted in one direction when I made the decision to start a family, taking my time away, at least temporarily, from writing and certainly art projects, the time has come for the dynamic to shift again. This time, I am actively seeking to shift it and attempting to manage where it shifts to.

What does this all mean? Well, for one thing, I'll be resurrecting my early 90s cartoon characters from my Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips. That will take a few different shapes. There's new music on the horizon, certainly with my band, Third World Sun. But perhaps even outside of the band. My latest novel should be out before Spring of 2018 is over. And I've got a series of children's books to jump-start that I expect to illustrate as well as write. And there's more! But I don't wanna spill all the beans at once.

One final note: The Creative Underground will also be starting back up. If you're not aware of that, it was a local cable-access TV show that I did to highlight creatives and creativity in Southern California (before that, it was an Internet radio show in Colorado Springs, CO). The show will get a a bit of a retool (again) and I'm hoping for weekly installments starting in January of 2018. It may or may not make it back on TV in Long Beach via PadNet. I haven't decided yet. Either way, I hope to grow it into a vibrant YouTube destination. So stay turned. Subscribe to my blog here and to The Creative Underground YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=paul+carhart%27s+the+creative+underground). And I'll keep plugging away at what I'm working on in the meantime.

Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring your dreams closer to your reality.

Hopefully, I'll see you in January.

Peace and love and rock on!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Enter: Third World Sun

I put up a post on the Launch Pad blog today about the state of the band and what is rising from its ashes. Rather than re-post the whole thing here, I'll just link to it.

http://launchpadtheblog.blogspot.com/

More info shortly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Spring Break Blues

So here we are. The last day of school for Melody's first school break since Lori passed away.

And, even though I get pretty decent days off, I'm faced with a good month or so of Melody being out of school with me still at work. Tthere are some exceptions. I'm taking some time off around her birthday and right before she goes back. But it's nowhere near a month. It's more like three or four days spread around here and there.

And so I'm faced with what the heck I'm going to do with her during that time.

Fortunately, we've got family.

Of course, that doesn't always translate into the "free babysitter" that it might seem. My mom recently (yesterday) had surgery to remove a lump of cancer from her breast. So she's in recovery mode now. And that leaves my sister who, thankfully, works from home. But she's used to having my mom watch her three-year-old so she can ACTUALLY do work from home. Nevertheless, it seems that Melody will be spending at least the remainder of this first week at her Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Joe's house. She'll have a blast with the cousins... far more fun than she would have with me as I go to work every day and put her... someplace.

But then that leaves me alone every night. And that's when things in the house get somewhat haunting.

I'm in the midst of changing some things around.

The room that was formerly Lori's mom's room (when she passed away, Lori's brother informed me that his mom wasn't my problem and took her to a residential-care facility) is now being transformed into an office for me. It's a lot of work to put bookshelves, books, desk, other furniture, computer, high-speed access, etc. into there. And, although I'm making progress, it's slow going. Perhaps I'll make progress in there on the nights when Melody is staying with her cousins.

I'm also planning on changing around the bedroom. As it is, it's pretty much the way it was the day Lori went to the hospital. The exception is that Lori's brown "venting" chair is now in my office. But otherwise, everything remains intact. Late at night when I'm in that big bed by myself, it does indeed haunt me. I believe changing the furniture around will help with those feelings.

I've also started replacing some of the artwork in the house. Not the photos. I'm keeping those all up for now. I want don't want Melody to feel as if I'm moving on too quickly. And, indeed, I don't want to move on too quickly. But I also need to do certain things so as to not torture myself as well.

As for Lori's things... her clothes, jackets, hats, boots/shoes, etc., I haven't really thought about that. I don't need both of our matching dressers. But since they match, I don't really want to get rid of one of them either. My brother, Jim, suggested putting hers in the closet, an idea that I like. Perhaps some strategic folding and stacking, and I may even be able to get a good amount of Lori's stuff inside, at least for the short term. I'm keeping her jewelry for Melody.

That brings me to what I'm doing for therapy. Not much. I'm going to work. I'm attempting to resume my writing but ramping back into A Stranger At The Gallows has been slow going. The thing that I have found that has best helped me cope so far is music.

In the aftermath of Lori's passing, the remaining members of Launch Pad (myself, Scott Johnson and Randy Scott) got together and jammed. We wanted to see if we were going to stay together and keep it going without Lori. At the time, the consensus seemed to be that we would pick up where we had left off and try to move forward without Lori. We didn't think she would have wanted us to stop and we all wanted to carry on, partly in her memory and partly because we still wanted to play together. However, as Randy said at the time, "No matter what we do, it won't be the same without Lori."

And he was right.

As time has passed, it has become somewhat evident that Launch Pad probably will not continue forward. Lori was the heart of that band. Launch Pad was born of both of us. Had she and I divorced or either of us had left the band, I don't think it would have been Launch Pad anymore. And even though Lori didn't really choose to leave, she did. She left the entire planet! And it's just not Launch Pad anymore.

So last week, Scott stopped by the house. We were talking about maybe writing something but nothing really popped. We went down into The Underground, just he and I. And we messed around a little. Still nothing really struck us. So I broke out a book of songs I had been working on over the past few years... stuff I thought I might record or do outside of Launch Pad if ever an opportunity presented itself. These songs are pretty much complete. Chord progressions, lyrics, melody, etc. I started playing the first one, "Collapse," and Scott took a liking to it. The chords were right on the page so it was nothing for him to start playing along. Then we moved to another. Before we knew it, we had gone through five songs. Scott had some suggestions for a couple of them and I jotted his name down alongside mine.

At that moment, I decided that the lifespan of Launch Pad was tied to the length of Lori's life.

Something new was going to happen. Scott came over again this past Saturday. I think the idea was that we might go back through some of those songs and flesh them out a bit. Instead, Scott started playing an infectious riff. I added a bass run under it and we jammed on it for awhile. When we came up for air, Scott was like, "Do you wanna do something with that?" I said, "Let's write some words right now. What should it be about?" We agreed that something we had both encountered in various bands is the feeling of being held hostage by the lack of commitment on the part of other band members. And thus, "Hostage" was born. The whole song was pounded out in a half hour... maybe an hour. Scott was stoked. I was happy. We were now up to roughly six all-new songs!

We still had no drummer. It was just Scott and me. Randy didn't seem interested. We made a few calls... Linda (our previous drummer), Robert (our almost drummer one time)... it just wasn't panning out. Scott and I made a trip to the music store and I used the trip to upgrade our PA. And then, Mike called Scott. Mike was Launch Pad's drummer for roughly a year before Scott joined and perhaps two more after Scott joined (I don't remember... maybe it wasn't quite that long). Our chemistry was undeniable. In fact, Mike played drums on all of the songs on the first Launch Pad CD. Indeed, I considered just dropping all the way out of Launch Pad when Mike left because I didn't really want to do it without him. As a bass player, I guess I get pretty attached to my drummers. So Mike called Scott, who told him what we were doing. Mike couldn't make it over on Saturday but Scott followed up with him on Monday and now we're going to get together this Saturday with an eye toward perhaps pulling this thing together. The idea is that we'll do (at least) these six new songs and port over some of the Launch Pad songs that I primarily sang (Has Beens, Do You Got The Stones?, Live Life, Bring It On, etc.) and the one Scott wrote/performed (Shades of Gray) to start with. That's plenty of material. And I'm sure we'll write more.

So my somewhat melancholy beginning of this post now morphs into something hopeful.

And I will leave it on that note.

Until next time...