The Smiths – Ask (cover)

I didn’t drive as early as most of my friends did whilst attending LACHSA. As a matter of fact, I used my modest chemistry scholarship to buy my first car after I had graduated. Amongst others, my bro’ Jerry Rodriguez (same birthday as me!) would drive me to school in his little Honda Civic. Naturally, as music students, we would be playing music the whole way. On cassettes baby! Jerry often played The Smiths.

He was the one who turned me on to them. He would tell me stories about all the fanatics in the UK. We had an English teacher named Mrs. Lyons and she actually brought Jerry back some Smiths memorabilia as she was English and would return home often. So, the seed was planted.

I’ve been a big Smiths fan ever since. My favorite song is “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”. What a mood…

Some years ago I heard the Gene Loves Jezebel version of “Ask” and completely fell for it except for one of the parts where I felt the vocal was rather sharp. Honestly, though I also love GLJ, it ruined the song for me. I remember thinking I would do it differently. Some months ago, the song re-surfaced and the idea was set in stone. So here I present to you, my version of Ask inspired by both The Smiths and GLJ.

My lyrics are a hybrid of The Smiths, GLJ and my own grey matter. I have nothing but respect for Moz. I actually rather enjoy when lyrics are changed in live performances and Moz has certainly done that from time to time. In that spirit, and in defense of Morrissey’s underrated sense of humor I went ahead and did my own thing. I have always interpreted “Ask” as a love song for humanity. I hope you enjoy it.

Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you
from doing all the things in life you’d like to

Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you
from doing all the things in life you’d like to

So if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me
I won’t say no
How could I?

Coyness is nice and coyness can stop you
from saying all the things in life you’d like to say

So if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me
I won’t say no
How could I?

Spending warm summer days indoors
writing frightening verse
to a buxom girl from Manchester

Ask me ask me ask me
Ask me ask me ask me
because if it’s not love then it’s
the bomb that will bring us together

Nature is a language can’t you read?
Nature is a language can’t you read?

So ask me ask me ask me
Ask me ask me ask me
because if it’s not the bomb then it’s
the love, the love, the love that will bring us together

If it’s not the love
It might be the bomb…
Can you help me do this?
We got what we need
…Shyness is nice…

(Chant 1)
Will you bring us together?
Oh I want to bring us together
Will you bring us together?
I’m asking will you bring us together

(Chant 2)
If it’s not the love then it’s the bomb, bomb

Revisiting a Day from Hell in 2003

While having lunch today, my friend Allison asked me where I worked before SCI-Arc. I was reminded that my days installing high speed cable modems prepared me for the worst. A really bad day at SCI-Arc is laughable in comparison. Here is an account of one such day I resurrected from my old website. Remember, this was just one day of MANY. Much profanity follows, you have been warned. I hope that my misery entertains you!

7:42 PM 9/20/2003

Following are my accounts of this “Day from Hell.”

It started out innocently enough. We were looking at a workload of approximately 125 jobs. This would be considered an extremely heavy day but it was predictable. This had been going on for weeks now. Routing 24 trucks with a such a full workload requires foresight,calmness, and optimism. Perhaps it even requires plain luck. These are all qualities I feel I possess except of course the luck, which is out of my control. Explaining the frightening feeling of despair this day delivered requires a visit to seemingly trivial events of the past week.

It started last Saturday when one of out techs met his own “day from hell” with an impossible lawyer from La Cañada. My tech was held up for hours and ended up missing two of his appointments. Of the two customers one was saved and the other, who claims to have been missed for the third time, was not. This caused me great aggravation. I couldn’t sleep knowing I was ultimately responsible. Sure, we were slammed with jobs and were asked to do the impossible, but that didn’t matter in the “real world.” This wasn’t Charter’s fuck-up, it could never be. It was our fuck-up and I owned it. The asshole lawyer and the customer I couldn’t save exposed me. In my never-ending optimism I embraced this as a lesson learned. I would arrive to work even earlier than before. I would focus on my follow- ups. I would call more customers than before. I would delegate better than ever. Yes, that was the idea, maybe now I finally understood what being a manager was all about. Thank the heavens for my misfortune. This was the lesson I needed to learn. This was MY wake up call!

The rest of the week was tough. Tuesday we were told we had to be in one hour earlier than usual. The calendar indicated Wednesday was the early day and we were informed of the change at 2:00PM but guess what? We made it! We were in on time. This shit was really working. Thank the heavens!

Charter had no white cable for the whole week. Everybody prefers white cable. This caused issues. We dealt with them. Charter is extremely low on materials. Not enough fittings, splitters, and roca clips just to name a few. We dealt with it.

Come Thursday morning we learn that our technicians will face a price drop. This means they will work harder for less money. My heart dropped. The last time this happened I was a technician myself and I quit. I believe one should be rewarded for their hard work and remain persistent in moving forward NOT backward. I was fortunate enough to have the skills necessary to move into management. Most people don’t. The technicians keep this company alive. As a whole they are the hardest working bunch of mother fuckers I have ever known. Although I believe our owner has nothing but the best intentions and a sincere concern for them, I believe they keep getting fucked. They deserve more. Still, I reminded myself of my position as their leader, as their role model and stumbled out my support.

Friday morning I received an e-mail that made its way to all the Charter managers. It states our tech spoke badly of Charter in front of a customer and came back at 9:00PM in street clothes to drop of a digital box. Nice one…

Friday evening was the beginning of the end. One of our techs “lied” to the wrong customer in Azusa. “We’ll be there in 10 minutes.” …45 minutes later… “Were still behind sir, I don’t know when we can get there.” Somehow this customer obtained the direct phone number to our office and speaks to our dispatcher. Although we had someone standing by to come to the rescue the customer requests we re-schedule for first thing next morning. Fine. I wrote the address down and scheduled it as a “first call, must do.”

So here I was at Saturday morning. The “Azusa call”, as I had labeled it, was just one of many follow-ups I had to deal with this morning. There was the guy in Norwalk who was a “must do 10 to 12.” We couldn’t find the main line from the junction box to his apartment Friday and he was pissed. “I took the whole day off, I have a business to run, it needs to be done today!!!” Also in Norwalk there was the computer that would no longer turn on after we installed a network card. Then there was a long underground run in La Cañada scheduled for 1 o’clock that would tie up both of my lead technicians. Add 3 more “tech calls” to this and 125 chances for something to go wrong. Murphy’s law did not let us down.

At 9:20AM the Azusa guy calls our office. He is pissed. “You were supposed to be here at 8:00… no, ok, I remember you said 9:00 after all but you’re still late. Were are you guys?” Somehow (still under investigation) it takes our techs an hour to travel 2 miles. These are the same techs that dropped the ball last night. Giving them the job again was a very bad call in hindsight. Maybe I felt they would somehow vindicate themselves by completing the job after all. Then, I wouldn’t have to yell at them about it as much. Maybe I hoped the customer would express how disappointed he was and they would learn their lesson. Maybe I just wasn’t thinking at all. This turned out to be the customer nightmares are made of.

Once again this customer magically obtains MY direct cell phone # and lays in on me. This has happened before. It’s part of my job but this time it’s different. I hear the usual ‘How can I trust you after all that has happened?’, ‘They told me you would wash my clothes and take out my trash!’ and ‘How can you run a business this way?’ but there was more this time. I didn’t realize what it was till later. He couldn’t handle my cell phone breaking up so he requested I call him from a land line. He thought I was lying about the phone breaking up but I did as he requested, called back, and we spoke for another 15 minutes. He proceeds to invade me…making me feel nervous, shaky, and out of control. Still, I managed to say the right things and felt the fire was out. Save for one thing.

I called back the wrong person! There were two numbers on the piece of paper I was scribbling on. I called the customer’s business partner! Their voices sounded so similar (and we were talking about the same situation) that I didn’t suspect I had called the wrong person. Fuck! The customer still awaiting my phone call was now fuming! I call the right number as soon as possible. This guy is twice as bad as his partner. He is unreasonable beyond belief. He speaks of suing us for missing his appointments and ruining his business. He eventually does not want to talk to me and will settle for nothing less than speaking to my superior. He doesn’t like the title of my superior (Operations Manager) and insists on the top of the food chain, Chad. I make it happen and predictably enough get yelled at by Chad as well. Later, Chad calls back, calms down and assures me everything will play out just fine. In this last conversation with him I realize why this customer upset me so much. He was doing this BECAUSE HE COULD. There was no reason for him to be as upset and nasty as he was. We hadn’t fucked up that bad. He knew no one would defend the mistakes we had made. He could act as atrocious as possible without fear of opposition.

This was further reinforced when I retrieved a voice mail he left me. He said “Alright Zuma, you want to play the game, then we’ll play the game!!!—click” Our technician also called later to say that the customer would turn and say “Watch guys, this is how you play the game,” before calling me. My perpetual optimism seemed to be mocking me. The human race became evil. I felt like an idiot for letting it absorb into my every nerve. This is fucking cable t.v. folks! What the fuck is so important about watching t.v. and checking your fucking e-mail? How about finding a hobby you fuckheads? And this is what I do for a living, hook up assholes like this? Am I the biggest asshole of all? Oh wait a minute, hold on. I’m not mad at the world, television, or the Internet. Just this asshole. Never before have I truly understood the meaning of the phrase FUCKYOU! So FUCKYOU Mr. Dickhead in Azusa! Finally, my installers finish The “Azusa call”. Yet, the day is not over.

At 11:00am Larry cut the power cord to a computer instead of his cable line (they are both black and similar in diameter!). At 12:30PM my lead Fausto breaks down with a leaking radiator hose. I take him to AutoZone where they give us the wrong part. We go back to find they don’t carry the hose and settle for a universal one. Now it’s 2:30PM and the super long underground run in La Cañada is still waiting. So, I take over his tech calls and hop on the 210 West. I take a follow up from yesterday and Larry’s cut power cord call.

The follow up from yesterday is a nightmare. I get yelled at for being a day early and the 5th guy to mess up a time frame. She lets me in anyway. The whole call is her fault. Her new Dell laptop is missing the built-in ethernet driver. I skip the explanation and the hero routine and just fix it with her Dell system disks. Her computer is full of spyware and stupid little toolbars…whatever. Her AOL pops up and she screams, “I don’t want AOL I want Charter!” I explain it popped up automatically. I turn it off and proceed to show her Internet Explorer. She screams even louder,”I don’t want Internet Explorer, I want Charter! Where is the Charter service!!!” I cringe and wonder how I am ever going to explain this concept to her. She asks,”Internet Explorer is not going to charge me also are they?” I say no and she seems to drop the matter. Then she wants e-mail. I kiss 20 minutes goodbye as I call Charter to set up (exactly) what she wants. I set it up in Outlook Express and show her how to send and receive e-mail. Just when I think it’s going well she needs to confirm her “forwarding” abilities. Yes people, THESE are the fucks on AOL that send you all that shit! As usual AO-Hell manages to convert every single message into an attachment and she has a fucking heart attack. “You Charter people are making this so hard! Do you realize how many messages I forward? I can’t have this happen!” I explain to her Charter uses a standard e-mail service and is simply receiving the e-mail as AO-Hell sent it. She flips again. Without looking me in the eye she tells me to leave and to make sure no one show up tomorrow. Gladly! I proceed to the “cut cord” tech call.

…I walk in to a room with no electricity. I panic for a second. Think, think, think. I find the electrical panel. The breakers are off. I switch them on and all is good. I replace the cord, configure the pc and all is well. The house is too small for this family. The house is untidy and the floor smells like cat piss. But guess what? This is the happiest moment of my day. These people are poor and their house is shit but they are so fucking nice it kills me! My installer just left them with no electricity and they think their computer is screwed yet they are so appreciative. Call it what you want. Ignorance? Fear? No, I don’t think so. How about these people actually fucking understand what the important things in life are like compassion, humility, and gratitude. Poor people win today. My-life-sucks-beacuse-I-own-my-own-business-and-I-can’t-watch-tv people lose.

A total of three broken underground lines, another nasty voice mail, another “I’ll be there in 15 minutes incident” and a customer who was offended my installer did not speak English well later, I went home. I drank a beer. I played my bass loudly to some Duran Duran and Power Station and then I wrote this.

I must give a big thank you to all the people that helped me make it through the day including Hector, Fausto, Anderson (who fixed the Norwalk computer), Gretchel, Elaine, and of course my partner in crime Frooshie, who had a bag of Spongebob Bubble Gum, a Spike burger, and teri-fries waiting for me.

Goodnight.

12:30 AM 9/21/2003

Duran Duran – Lonely In Your Nightmare

Another bass guitar cover in the hat! For non-musicians I should explain that the instrument I am playing in this video is a fretless bass guitar. This means that it’s more like an upright bass or a cello, where the fingerboard does not have any metal note markers like most guitars do. The sound is rather unique and beautiful while the skill is difficult.

This is also appearance #2 for Sugar. She made her debut appearance in my Girls On Film video. Then it was spontaneous. This time I couldn’t help waking her from her slumber.

I can’t tell you how many times I listened to Lonely In Your Nightmare as a kid. I was definitely a daydreamer, looking at my Star Hits and BOP magazines, wondering what it would be like to be wearing a cool suit in Sri Lanka and meeting a beautiful woman. Such a dreamer…

Duran Duran - John Japan

John Taylor somewhere in Japan. Hey, I think he’s daydreaming too!

I hope you enjoy the video.

My Faithful Co-pilot and Companion

This post starts by going way back. We don’t often see how the things we love actually impact our day to day life. We’re not looking for reasons. Their impact is simply there, with us, a part of ourselves. If we’re lucky we become mindful of our thoughts in a way that kind of ties it all together.

I have loved the world of Star Wars for a long time now. Back in “the band” days I had my 1971 Dodge Demon. I loved that car and so did most anyone that rode in it. We could fit our guitar rigs in there PLUS the drum set. It was quite the workhorse yet, more importantly, it was big, ugly and white. This gave it the nickname of Millennium Falcon. She didn’t look like much but she had a loud, strong motor. I made many modifications to it myself, just like Han.

han_smiling

One mod I was particularly proud of was installing plastic racing bucket seats in the front. This allowed me to unbolt the passenger’s side seat by undoing 4 bolts whenever I needed to take on more cargo, mostly for the aforementioned band gigs. At some point I learned George Lucas was quite the hot-rodding fan. American Graffiti would have a big influence on me, further fueling my love for musclecars and big V8 motors. I was never much of a mechanic but I sure got my hands greasy back then. If only I had a hydrospanner…

The band was no longer a part of my life and the Falcon was soon gone. I hardly drove it as I had a company truck now. Selling it felt like the right thing to do. A father bought it for his young teenage son and he seemed so thrilled I hardly felt bad about it. I never lost my passion for musclecars though.

The 1970 Plymouth Barracudas and the 1970 Dodge Challengers were my top favorites. Fast forward through a whole lot of life and I was now the owner of a 2010 Plum Crazy Dodge Challenger.

challenger_new_lights

Fast forward some more and I found myself in a very different place. I made some bad choices and things were pretty bad. Somehow, I eventually emerged from the chaos. Certainly I can’t discount how valuable other persons in my life were, but, I also know that my faithful companion Pepper pushed me through scores of tough days.

One day, I’m looking over at Pepper and I realize – This is it! This is my new life and this is my new and improved Millennium Falcon. It’s better than the old one. Sure, it’s not raw and loud like my 1971 but it’s simply a better car, hands down. No more scary brakes and foggy windshields. Those things are only fun in drunken memories. It’s a better life now. The best part? I have my very own Chewie! I call her Pee-a-Bacca when she’s in the car as she is part Yoda, part Chewbacca. She is always there, to my right.

Pee-a-Bacca_Pepper

I’ve always been young at heart and I find myself embracing it even more now. Go ahead and talk to yourself. Go ahead and sing. Do a funky chicken dance. Why the hell not? Rob Lowe recently did an AMA on Reddit and I really liked his words on youth.

Well, being youthful is an inside job. Think about what youth is. It’s kids, kids are enthusiastic, energetic, interested, optimistic, engaged, and curious. If you’re not all of those things, you can have no lines on your face and a 32 inch waist, and no one is going to call you youthful.

When I’m backing out of the garage with Pee-a-Bacca I pretend like I am engaging some complicated ignition sequence. It helps that the Challenger has a console mounted on the headliner. The switch to open the garage door is located there. I definitely channel Han when I push it and the “hangar door” crawls open, making its Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr noise. Then, I futz around with the diagnostic screens, checking various pressures and temperatures before backing out. Us boys love our buttons ‘n’ switches and I use as many of them as I can, as often as I can. If I’m feeling especially nerdy I look over to Pee-a-Bacca and tell her to make sure she has programmed the navi-computer. After all, we don’t want to end up in an Empire construction zone and be late for work.

When I’m working in the garage at night (probably detailing the Purple Falcon or organizing my tools) I will open the garage door and pretend it’s the Hoth hangar. Pee-a-Bacca faithfully keeps a watchful eye for Wampas in the alley.

watching_for_wampas

As the night progresses I have to break the news to her, “Sorry Pee-a…we have to close the shield doors now.” She looks on with resignation moments before I hit the switch.

close_the_shield_doors

I seem to recall the Buddhist philosophy being an influence for George Lucas. I can’t say I’ve ever studied Buddhism but I find myself using “calm-Jedi-face” many times throughout the day. If I feel myself losing control I kick in to this calm state and start breathing. It works. It really does. I picked up this Buddha at Ross one day and I have several Yodas so this happened:

Altar

My mom actually made those little hats for Pepper but her Force was too strong for them so they ended up here. You can’t help thinking a happy thought when you pass my little altar. (Keen eyes will spy Shadow photo bombing these Jedi Masters.)

Here the Purple Falcon flies low across the Arizona desert.

falcon_desert

It doesn’t stop at Star Wars either. Sometimes I imagine Pepper having a little silver helmet like Merlin in Excalibur. Then, I tell her it was her love that brought me back, just like Arthur told Merlin once before.

I really need to stop now. Next thing you know I’ll start talking about Blade Runner. It’s 2 in the morning and I am fading…what was I trying to say? Oh yeah…I love Star Wars, I love musclecars, I love Pepper and I put them all together as often as I can.

Righty-O!

Duran Duran – We Need You

Here is my latest YouTube post. This happened quite organically. The song just popped in my head and I proceeded to dig it out and listen to it a couple of times. My Ex-Factor was out, ready to be played. It seemed as if it was begging to be played. I decided to give it a go.

The bass performance was recorded quickly – two or three takes. The rest was quite comical. First I ran out of juice on my trusty Creative Vado. Of course I didn’t notice. I finished one of my monologues that I thought went quite well only to realize it wasn’t recording at all anymore. I switched to my digital camera. Guess what? Then I saw the dreaded “Memory Full” mid-take. Then there was the take when I never quite activated the record button. I tend to be very driven and stubborn about getting these things done. Yeah, I stayed up til 3:45am. Sleep is gonna feel quite nice tonight.

I’ve always loved this track. Warren’s arpeggio guitar line and the almost hypnotic chord movement paired with the super simple, super effective bass line by John work so beautifully together. Add in Simon and Nick and you’ve got a stellar track. It should have been a single! I also love that it’s short and sweet like a great Smiths song.

I’ll elaborate on the chord movement just a bit. The chord structure is arranged in a pattern of three. The song does not have a triplet feel, it just eschews the standard pop pattern of four chords. I believe this is what gives it that drone-y, hypnotic feel. The bridge lets you of the hook a bit because the D chord is repeated twice, giving you the familiar sound and feel of four chords to a phrase. Try and listen for it!

You will hear the Kubicki’s amazing 36″ D string in the bridge section. In the words of my old professor Craig Kupka (when referring to the bass guitar notes below E), “It’s the voice of GOD.”

I would love to know what was in Warren’s effects chain. It’s such a cool sounding guitar part. He is someone who knows how to play his effects as if they were a part of the guitar itself. Oh, and let’s not forget that Simon really delivered too –

Time will see we’re not searching for a wild excuse
To put emotions back on hold
Too much has gone down we know what you’re doing
But do you feel the same way
You look sharp inside your pointed shoes
I have this picture hanging in my room
And I refuse to take you down or shake you down
We could bring you gently round if that’s what you choose
For a point of view coz words like sand just get blown away
All those things we’d like to say

Those first two lines really hit home for me. I was certainly running for a while there. It’s coming back to me now. Music is meditation. Talking is therapy and good friends are more valuable than ever.

I would like to dedicate this one to Phillip Kubicki who passed away earlier this year. He may be best known for creating the Ex-Factor but let’s not forget that here was a man who once built a custom rosewood Telecaster for George Harrison. The following is taken from the Fender website:

“I remember when I saw the guitar for the first time in the Let It Be film. I was so thrilled I almost jumped out of my seat.”

Thank you for creating such a wonderful instrument. You will be missed.

Hurts Me Like a Child

Today I’d like to share a track I recorded with my wonderfully talented friend Elysa Gomez. I’m sure you’ll agree she has quite a beautiful voice. She really made this song come alive. I remember almost being in tears (of joy!) when I first heard her sing it.

Now, I don’t like saying this because it sounds like I’m boasting but, I actually wrote the basic framework for this track when I was about 16 years old. I even have cassette tape proof of me attempting to sing it quite poorly. Oh, if that tape ever saw the light of day…Any how, I finally felt I had finished the song when I wrote the end section. It was one of those awesome moments when the parts just came to me all at once while I was in the shower.

It’s a simple love song, really. You long for someone, wonder how they feel about you, maybe get together with them yet, when you lose them, the middle is somehow an absent blur and gives way to the painful end. You simply have to let go even when hoping for a return to the past.

This song is currently part of a songwriting competition. Please click here and support me! I would really appreciate it.

 

Is it so wrong of me
to want your company?
You’ve made it clear to me
You say nothing’s forever

Remind me when you’re around
Can’t see two feet in front of me
I’m stumbling can’t you see…
Will you really not care for me?

I only wish I could see
The reflection of you in my window
‘Cause only then I’d see
Do I matter at all?

In dreams your picture I see
In smiles your laughter
There are many others around but
You only want what you can’t get

Last night you danced with me
Then reality wakes me
To be what I don’t want to be
Do you really not care for me?

I only wish I could see (the reflection of you)
The reflection of you in my window (’cause only then I’ll know)
‘Cause only then I’d see (the reflection of you)
Do I matter at all?

Been a long time…hurts me like a child…we don’t get along

So I have to let you go
Shouldn’t be this hard
Maybe I’ll just…
Take my chances
You’ll come home

It’s been a long time since I ran away but
It hurts me like a child when I hear you say
That we don’t get along over and over again

I’ve been around now long enough to know
That you really don’t love me if it doesn’t show but
I don’t know how to live so I’ll follow you anyway