The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Monday, January 29, 2007

My Dad and the Shoney's Waitress

My Dad can be a dangerously perceptive man. He grew up working at my grandparent's hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and got really good at picking out dialects from people vacationing from across the country. Between that and his experiences traveling across the USA, he can suss people out in a second.

We pulled into a Shoney's early one morning in Georgia, close to the Florida border. We were big fans of their famous breakfast buffet and it's heaping helpings of potatoes, eggs and pork. The waitress showed us to our table and asked, " Did you want the buffet?"

This was the only thing she had said to us, but it was enough for my dad to surmise on this humble waitress's life. "She grew up in the Midwest, I bet she's out here because she married a guy in the Navy who's stationed out here. She took this job to keep herself busy because her husband is out at sea for months at a time."

We all told him he was full of shit, but when the waitress came back we ran my father's assessment by her and she asked, "What do I win?." He was right but said that she was born in Massachusetts and was raised in Indiana.
"You were close, Dad," I said.
My father said, "Did you hear what she said, I didn't say born in the Midwest, I said grew up." He was right, goddamn it.

A few years later, at a dinner after my brother's wedding, I told that story to a couple of my new Sister-in-Law's friends who my family and I had just met the day before. One of the friends (let's call her Lisa) asked my Dad, "What can you tell about us?"

He looked at them both and said, "Your husbands work very hard to keep you in a lifestyle to which you've grown accustomed." I immediately put on the "uh,oh" face thinking my father had gone a little too far out on the limb this time.

But Lisa just nodded and said, "They do a great job, too!"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Lonesome Bass Player

The bass guitar player has had a unique part in the history of rock and roll. Dreams of rock stardom are sparked by a desire to sing or play guitar or sing to beat the shit out of some drums not be the guy in the back of the band going,"bum, bum, bum". The bass is the fat kid's instrument; something you do because no one else will.

I will admit, this was why I started playing it 20 years ago, there were only 4 strings instead of six and no one (with any taste) expects you to take a solo.

But being a good bass player means providing the rhythmic and melodic middle ground between drums and all the other insruments, and it took me a long time to learn that. I've always said that playing bass is like writing pop songs; it's easy to do but hard to do well.

I went to see a "jazz" band in Silver Spring. In truth they were more of a "smooth jazz" band; more like instrumental easy listening than what would be traditionally called Jazz. They'd cover lite rock standards and other examples of smooth jazz and trade solos during the verses.

The bass player was holding down the "groove" with workman like precision, but something was distracting him a bit; a young blond woman that I saw him talking to before the band began their set. Between the beat he'd shoot her sly "hey there..." glances as he jerked along in the traditional fashion of the smooth jazz bassist, trying to come off loose and smooth while their instrument is slung up just below his chin.

This isn't the guy, just an example.

As the set went on, his onstage pitching of woo became a bit more overt. His glances turned into stares as his gentle bopping became something more uncomfortably aggressive. He had even lowered his bass strap a bit between songs so he could make his bass more part of the action. And that's exactly what it became; pointing the headstock towards the object of his desire, not once losing his place in "Midnight at the Oasis".

As the bass player's mating dance reaches it's fever pitch, the male places the bass between his legs to subtlety but unmistakably simulate the act of sex. This part is often called "humping" the bass, but this time it might more accurately be called a "prison rape" of a bass because it is less a act of affection and more of an assertion of dominance.

Then , all of a sudden, he stopped and slinked back towards the back to play his more traditional role. I looked and the woman, his reason for rocking, was gone.

Such is the life for the lonesome bass player.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Your Pal song!

I just got done with a demo for a new song called "Be My Beyonce" that I wanted to share along with another kinda new song, "Smart Assed Angel". Watch this space for more soon.
New Songs

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Songs that use cowbell more kick ass than "Don't Fear The Reaper"

James Gang-Funk #49
The Supersuckers covered this at a show a few years ago and I sung out the cowbell break until a real one could be utilized.
Kiss-Watchin you
The cowbell freakout in the end of this song is PRICELESS!
Loverboy- Working for the Weekend
The cowbell count in totally outclasses and out rocks the rest of this song.
Mountain- Mississippi Queen
I had to use a cover version of this because it was the only one I could find that had good cowbell. This also features the classiest live song intro I've ever heard.
Full Grown-Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
I wish I could find an example of this, trust me; that cowbell kicks much ass. You know what the hell BLUES EXPLOSION!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Eats shoots and "leaves"

I don't seem to be the most qualified to comment on the use or misuse of punctuation; I just re-discovered the semi-colon. I'll even admit that I put movie titles and tv shows and things in quotation marks when I should put them in italics, in my ignorance, I don't know how to use italics online. Let me try: Battlestar Galactica is back on! Oops, I turned everything italic-y.

When you're writing quotes can be heavy things, if I write that you said something and put it in quotations, you would have to have said it. Legal action can be raised over such things.

But "air quotes" are widely acknowledged as a gesture to denote insincerity, unless you're Dr. Evil. At the toy store, quotes are used on the boxes of toys to note if things aren't "real". For example, we once had a toy dragon and it said on the box, "Really Breathes 'Fire'!", which really means a plastic "tongue" with flames painted on it comes out when you press a lever.

I realize that this is not my strongest post. It been a while since I've written anything and I wanted to get going on something. I'll make it up to you and write about something more interesting this week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Everybody's Happy Nowadays

I had a full on emotional breakdown last Friday. How full on? I called in depressed to work. Now I didn't write this to get any sympathy, so don't cry for me, Argentina. I wanted to give you some perspective on my way of thinking.
As down as I have been and has darkly as I've been thinking, this life has given me some genuine moments of joy at it's purest and will continue to do so. The latest, of all things, was an AARP commercial. It wasn't the commercial itself, it was the music: "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by the Buzzcocks.
Singles Going Steady by the Buzzcocks is one of my all time fave raves and literally taught me how to write songs, so it has always had a special place in my heart. My relationship with music over the years has been informed, in a large part, by where I grew up(Lower Delaware).
The Buzzcocks, along with The Replacements, Husker Du and many other obscure greats, were part of what was called by my friends, "Pete's Weird Music". I would try to get people into my way of thinking, and honestly be a bit of a sactimonious dick about it, but Janet Jackson and Poison firmly remained in every party playlist.
I loved when bands I liked signed to major labels because then I only had to drive 15 minutes to get their new album instead of an hour and they might actually get on the radio and change some minds. Some of my favorites indeed became pretty famous (Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers) but after I was over them.
But I've always loved the Buzzcocks. I love that I've lived long enough to hear them in an American Association of Retired Persons commercial. Seventeen year old Pete wouldn't have believed it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Your Pal vs. Rosie vs Trump.

Who do I side with? Who the fuck cares? No pop culture or sociological dissection, I don't give a shit.
Honestly, It's not even that there are so many other pressing issues facing us; even if we lived in a heaven on earth, is there ever a time when so much attention should be paid to how an ego-driven billionaire and a former comedienne turned squawking head feel about each other? I say no. That's why I didn't put a link to a related story.
Remember the Simpsons Halloween episode where the giant advertisements come to life and are only stopped when people stopped paying attention to them. I say we do the same to Donald and Rosie. They certainly are easier to ignore than a rampaging thirty foot Lard Lad Donut statue.
I'm not above cheap publicity stunts, though. I'm calling out Lonnie Bruner for biting my sexy baldheaded style lo all these many years. He's in Asia right now, but when he comes back, IT'S ON!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Obama for President!

A lot of the people have surmised that my move to Iowa is to begin a campaign for President of the United States in 2008. Unfortunately, the exploratory committee that I formed to look into the possibility found that my lack of public service coupled with my almost complete obscurity made such an attempt unfeasible. I thought they were being generous with the adding of the "almost", but I have to get something for the 30 bucks I paid them.

I hear-by endorse Illinois senator Barack Obama for President. Although I generally lean left on many issues, I don't trust politicians on either side of the fence. The political machine is suppose to be operated by intelligent adults with dynamic opinions that are shaped by experience to further America as the great country that it is. Instead they are as dogmatic at children on the playground who won't share a swing set. Children are excused for thinking in black and white, good and evil, and with me/against me because they don't know any better; Adults have no excuse.
Political campaigns are run like chess games, with candidates nominated for being "electable" rather than "good" and large sections of the country ignored because they don't have enough votes in the electoral college. And we as voters do things like blame Ralph Nader for not getting Al Gore elected, but most of the people I knew that voted for Nader wouldn't have voted at all. It's like what Devo said, "Freedom of choice is what you got/Freedom from choice is what you want." Do you think it's a coincidence that people like Bob Dole and Al Gore more now than when they were running for office?
This dysfunctional political system need a good, honest, real shake up. For that Obama is the perfect President. I'll justify my love in no order:

1. The name! Can you think of a more untraditionally American name for a politician holding national office than Barack Hussein Obama? Ok, Spiro Agnew, fine.

2. This article! This blew my mind when I read it last week. A Plan, A Man, My main political Pet Peeve Squashed! Obama!

3. He makes the right people nervous! Republicans and Democrats alike covet and fear his charisma. He's as close as we've come to a Kevin Kline's Dave;a movie as fanciful and naively idealistic as any fantasy.

4. He's honest and doesn't care if it hurts him politically! Here's an article about that.

But I realize he'll probably won't get elected. Why? I just named 4 reasons why.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Whore Of Popular Culture

This weekend I had the pleasure of hanging out with Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, creators of the certified cult classic documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot . It's a short, simple film of Judas Priest fans(and to a lesser extent Dokken fans) as they do their pre-game substance abusing before a Priest show in 1986 at the Cap Center. It's since gained a cult following through word of mouth and the dubbing of video cassettes of friends.
I saw it for the first time on Saturday at the Black Cat and it is pretty great. The twenty years that have passed have given it a few extra layers of unintentional comedy. The mullets, sleeveless t-shirts and Trans-ams are as they were, not the ironic approximations from TV or movies that try to capture the era that always rings so hollow for us people who actually lived through it (like me). And when the girl says if she met Priest singer Rob Halford she'd "jump his bones" it was hard to imagine back then that this man.......
could be gay. The fact that is was filmed in a place that was familiar to most everyone in the crowd induced cheers when a group of people in the movie proudly proclaimed "Glen Burnie!"
Jeff had done a ton of other movies since them (most of which can be viewed at Planet Krulik) but none have approached the pop culture success of HMPL. He told me that he's always been grateful that people feel so strongly about it, but it was odd that he is best remembered for what was basically a goof project two decades ago. I told him my basic observation about the increasingly fickle nature of pop culture: It's a whore running at the speed of light; if you try to catch her, you'll fail and look silly doing it. The most you can hope for is to do the best work you can and hope it runs you over.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pretentious and Pretentiouser

I was reading a story recently about a current beef between music combos Panic At The Disco and Bloc Party. If you want to read a story about it here's a link, but basically Bloc Party said they're "Keeping it real" and Panic care more about being a ringtone on some teen girls phone than making good music.
This isn't about me liking or caring about either band (Panic annoys the bejesus out of me and Bloc Party is unique, but not in a way that I'm interested in), it's about pretension.
I have a personal war against pretension (which is why I won't put a ! after panic), as illustrated in my personal manifesto the Popagenda (check number 7). Yes, I realize that having a manifesto is pretentious, but it is a means to an end. The problem with fighting against pretension is the same as the war against Drugs, Poverty or Terrorism; there is no nation-state, no true figurehead, no Death Star to destroy to ultimately win it.
I hate it so much because it's often just a tool of revenge to make people feel bad about themselves; most pretentious people spent their teenage years as the Anthony Michael Hall in their personal John Hughes movie. I did too, although I was more of a "Duckie" guy myself.
It's a basic clash between the two main forms of pretension: Those who aren't as cool as they think they are (Panic) and those who aren't as smart as they think they are (Bloc Party).
The key is that everyone is full of shit, it's all about whose smell we can stand.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I'm going to jail in Iowa!

O.K., not really. I'm going to live in a FORMER jail in Iowa. The main comedic element of this was that it's my dad's vacation house in IOWA, until I found out more about the house he and one of my uncles recently bought. It was built as a jail in the late 1880's and was converted into a doctor's office more recently.
I'm making this admittedly drastic change in my life because I'm sick of not being happy with my life. I love the people I work with, but I HATE my job and I don't think I'm going to be able to get another one that pays me enough (that I won't hate) to live in DC without regularly selling my plasma. Add to that the fact that my house, affectionately known as "the Reno Lounge", is closing up, and you have a catalyst for change.
I'm going to concentrate on my writing for a while, most specifically to finish my book, "Surviving Retail". I got a lot of it done when I was unemployed last spring and summer, but the specter of bills and expenses caused a decent amount of stress and the overall distraction level that DC provides prevented me from doing more.
Like meditating, where one clears the mind of it's clutter, I'm purposefully clearing out the life that I've grown accustomed to to focus on the only thing that seems to be going forward, writing.
This move is not permanent, but it will at least be until I finish the retail book. I may start another one consisting of essays and observations mixed with my Iowa experiences that I'm tentatively titling "Earth Don't Suit You". I blame Chuck Klosterman and his book "Killing Yourself to Live" for inspiration. I'm also planning on doing some recording out there for a new CD called "Without You I'm Something".
Anyway, I'm kind of excited about this, I'll post more about it soon.