Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Gig With the Vampires

A Gig With the Vampires



A diagnosis from the oncologist, two days at the new job and a gig among the vampires. So far, so good.

The oncologist gave me a new name for the cancer with the same prognosis. It is a mix of news as expected. The cancer is a form that is incurable. Apparently far worse and more aggressive forms will go away for good and always if the patient can survive the treatment, but every attempt gracious and offensive has been turned back by this one on every patient they've tried, bled, and put back on the street. Like a bad haircut, it can be lived with but unlike one, you can't outgrow it or cut it all out. The good news is it is slow to grow, can be treated with smaller doses and until it gets to a certain stage of symptoms, they don't treat it at all.

So I feel fine. Really. I have a nasty cut on the neck where they took a lymph node(I have more and won't miss that one), and later this week, they will punch two sizes of needles through my pelvic bone (big ouchie) to take some bone marrow. If things go as expected, I go back to work and stand around for the rest of the day, then go to my son's bacaulaureate. Not too bad really.

The new job is fun two days in. UAI is a small company that builds public utility web software. It's good looking stuff too. After years of big and small teams in mostly big companies, a small privately owned outfit is a fantastic change. I won't be able to say much about my current project, of course, but it isn't a stretch of the imagination as much as it is old fashioned software engineering and after the last nine years of being too near the smell of sulphur and ashes in purgatory, I feel very liberated and hopeful that this is exactly the right place to be. My dharma, artha and kama feel well-adjusted.

I played the Bluebird in Nashville on Sunday night. I went with my best bass playing buddy, Steve Weber, a guy who's incredible talent is on almost every song I've recorded since I was twenty. The Webelo and I had a fun time driving up and back. It was a beautiful day on I-65 driving the hills up to Abergavenny. Just perfect for the heart of the American South in springtime: sweet sunny hot and blue.

The Bluebird? I think the vampires took over since the last time I was there. Now I know what happened to the Sunnydale crew after Spike exploded and Buffy left for Italy with the Immortal. They've 'gone country'.

The Bluebird on a Sunday night is a strange experience and has been since I first played there over a decade ago: very small, very crowded, full of tourists and impossible to get even a bottle of water if you are a songwriter instead of a high tipping tippler. Well, at least they used to bring us water.

Over the years, the room has changed not at all but the staff has quite a bit. When the announcer said that I had played at the "Ray Acooof TheAtre", (Roy Acuff, NERD!!), that he and his wait staff worked their days at major labels in Nashville and that he personally owned a 'artist management and publishing company' (who doesn't dude?), and that at the end of the night, HE and HIS STAFF would vote one of the ten performers off the regular roster (in the days when Amy ran it, if you could pass her audition, you could play there once every six months forever), I knew that the sad truth is there is very little country left in the home of country music.

And really, that is NOT a good thing.

I'm not a country songwriter; I'm a folk rocker who cut his teeth on the soft sad with JohnPaulGeorgeANDRingo and on the sharp blade with Skynard and Hank. Still, I like any songwriter bar if they treat the songwriters with respect and help us find our way to the stage and to the van afterwards. While once upon a time, we all needed a place to show off our songs, to be discovered, to find management and a label, to get demos financed and so forth, anyone can own the gear, hire a lawyer and put out a CD. We used to write for the radio but now we write for the web and frankly, there just ain't that much we need from The Majors these days.

Yet, something strange happens when any establishment becomes an institution in its own right. The Bluebird is a converted sewing shop in a small strip mall on Hillsboro Road. Despite the fact that possibly many millions of shekels have been made there, they've not changed the carpet or the photos on the wall in all those years. In other words, it has become a cash cow for the career-aggressives who exist in any moderately successful business and take over a hot scene for their own personal pursuits. And then it becomes grotesque.

Rather sad. The Webelo and I played our set of my three original songs and split quick back to the Rocket City. You see, I need Nashville about as much as it needs me, so as much fun as I have there, I'm not looking anymore. I just don't need a "Destination Mall" with sixty five clothes horse shops in bright white and overhead lighting with a book store with six aisles of self-help books and only once shelf with old computer science titles and no Radio Shack. I mean.. really.

All the good stuff in my life is right here, downstairs, getting ready for school
tomorrow and being chastized by my ever suffering sweet baboo who keeps me going and loves me. And she is very good stuff.

Thanks to Tim Bray for the very kind words on his blog and the email it prompted to my inbox. Many thanks to all of you. The news I got got my attention and it has spun me around. Like a car flipping end over end in the air in a crash stunt in a movie, I watched the world spin around me then came down on all four wheels in the middle of the road still doing the limit a bit banged up but in the right direction.

And you know what? I am not alone. It's all good.

3 comments:

Danny said...

Hi Len, only just heard about your diagnosis - bummer. Kids, gigs & work sound good though.

fwiw, my Dad got a cancer diagnosis about 15 yrs ago (was treatable with radio) - but the news sent him really low for a few months. But before long he emerged, and has since been more positive about things than he ever was before.

fwiw2, plenty of vit. C is probably a good idea - Linus Pauling was likely bonkers, but at minimum the stuff helps shore up the immune system.

Len Bullard said...

Thanks for the cheer, Danny. Much appreciated.

It does get one's attention, but I take it as the sign to change some attitudes and as one of my musician pals says, "write faster". The prognosis from the oncologist is "this is not advanced so we will wait and see", meaning no treatment until it becomes more aggressive. It will eventually but that is then and this is now. For now, I get to keep my hair and readjust my stress levels downward. So of course, I get a new very challenging job and keep working on my art projects, blogs, and so on. That is how I stay happy.

A slightly dry way to approach it is this: if nothing else happens, I know what is going to kill me and that is a blessing because I know what to prepare for. Truth is, we know what we know but we know we never know, no? This is the time to enjoy every day like it was my last and there is a very uplifting momentum to that which ensures more days not less.

There is much left to do both serious and frivolous and of equal importance.

cheers,

len

Annie said...

Len,

Saw a comment you posted on a news.com article -- which led to a google search, and your blog.

So sorry to hear about the diagnosis, but also glad to see your spirits are in a good place.

It's been a while since we've had contact, but I hope the thoughts and prayers find you in a good place.

Ann

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