We made the move back on July 6th and Erin and I have been here over a month now. The whole process has felt like falling into a black hole and now we have emerged on the other side, dropped off in generic, white-bread suburbia. All in all though, aside from the unrelenting glut of corporate chain stores and restaurants and the clusterfuck that is the South Wadsworth and Bowles area in Littleton, which we avoid as much as possible, I like where we are now as it seems to be a kind of “no man’s land” that the greedy developers haven’t discovered yet. That of course, will change, but hopefully by then, we should be moving again. We went from Golden Ridge to Dakota Ridge, traded in a view of the dilapidated trailer park to watch the goings on at the dog park, which is infinitely much better, and we’re still about 15 minutes away from Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison.
The energy has shifted in a big way over the last month… so much that is new and all for the better, but I underestimated my down time in the studio; I am only now getting back to work and it’s August. The addition and incorporation of new gear in a new recording space always slows things down a little and some of that had been anticipated – the purchase of my first completely analog synthesizer since 1986 – but replacing a computer, operating system, and installing a new version of the music software I’ve been using was not expected but became necessary. A certain learning curve is involved. As a result, the full album, Outlier, will be coming out sometime in the first few months of 2019. I’m already hearing that this is a going to be a very different sounding album from what I first envisioned. A sea change. So now a 2-3 song single release is planned for October, early November as I finish up with what has already been recorded and mixed and only needs to be mastered at this point.
The dust continues to settle and new routines become established… In the meantime, we took a short weekend trip down to Santa Fe last week for the opera and to do all the usual Santa Fe things we do. And it became a kind of nothing-goes-as-planned weekend (brought to you by… Mercury retrograde, of course)… from almost getting fried in the Waterfall pool at Ten Thousand Waves when a lightning storm moved overhead to power outages in town and technical difficulties at the opera the next day. We ate enough excellent New Mexican food at Maria’s and the Shed with coin margaritas to make up for it. A much-needed road trip in the midst of all the recent changes. A brief pictorial here:
‘Til next time, when we’ve gone hiking for the first time this summer, just as it’s coming to an end (thankfully as always).
The most recent releases from Nights on Venus are the 2-song single, “The Wheels Are Coming Off“, released this summer, and the 3-song single/EP, “Snow Day“, from December, 2017.
The most recent full-length release “We Are All Haunted by Something” was released in the summer of 2017 and includes the 2-song single “Speed of Life” and “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot)”. All albums/singles/EPs from Nights on Venus are available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon MP3. and the NoV website.
It’s been quite a week. This November, everything got real…
One part of this post will be the fun stuff, one part will be rant. I’ll do the fun stuff first…
We came, we saw, we got married…
And we partied afterwards. Mightily. Loudly. A fun time was had by all at Lariat Lodge just up the hill on the other side of the highway – the reception was excellent, thank you guys! – and thank you everyone who came and celebrated with us. Erin and I are very glad all of you were there with us for our “alternative” wedding! It was one of the best parties I’ve been to in a while. Yay us… we did it!
And then we hit the road for a few days… down to Santa Fe, where I used to live for a while in the mid-1980’s. And our favorite place, Ten Thousand Waves. I had been going to the hot tubs since 1984 but I had never stayed in their rooms/suites before. Actually they’re more like casitas – small houses, and I highly recommend them. Do the full experience. Staying on site there, at the compound up in the foothills of Santa Fe at 7,700 feet, is an experience not to be missed. We went into town, checked out the art galleries, mostly on Canyon Road, and all our other favorite places. Santa Fe doesn’t change a whole lot, particularly around the plaza and everything that doesn’t radiate off of Cerrillos Road, and that’s one thing I love about it. The air always seems to carry the scent of piñon, the high desert light is bright and intense, adobe everywhere (“if you don’t like adobe, go home…“), and there’s always that spiritual vibe about this place.
There’s a song on the next Nights on Venus album (scheduled for spring/early summer, 2017) entitled “The Indelible Imprint of Place”… this is what I’m talking about. Always love a spiritual vibe in a place. Santa Fe may be our next home (for me…again) and chapter in life… and I certainly hope so.
A week later I wish we were still in Santa Fe.
There was just one little fly in the ointment… well, actually a rather large one. There was that whole election thing last Tuesday…
And now, the rant…
In the space of a week I’ve gone from fucking pissed to thoroughly disgusted… well, I’m still fucking pissed but mostly just more disgusted at this people-of-WalMart-WWE-reality-TV-shitshow-spectacle of an election. Sure, it’s all fun and games… ’til someone elects a fascist.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!!
To those who voted for Trump, you have absolutely no idea what you’ve done and I only have one thing to say to you…
Oh, what was that? Say it again…
Very sorry… and very, very soon, just like those poor souls over in the UK who voted for Brexit and then wanted to have a do-over vote when they realized what Brexit actually meant. Unfortunately, this is way worse and now all of us are on board.
The recurring image that comes to my mind about what happened and what’s most likely to happen now going forward is this scene from the movie Mulholland Drive with Naomi Watts and Laura Harring.When Harring’s character Rita begins talking in her sleep, Betty (Watts) awakens her from her nightmare and tells her “it’s OK” to which Rita responds, “No, it’s not OK.”
The last few days I’ve seen some posts come across my news feed on Facebook from people saying we need to come together now and unite as a country and get behind President-elect Trump. Fuck that. Go peddle that happy horseshit somewhere else.
Even President Obama said yesterday that “Americans need to reconcile themselves to a Trump presidency.” In this context, reconcile sounds more like “resign”. That’s not acceptance, that’s resignation. And so the normalization of these things begins – things that cannot and should not ever be normalized, including, but certainly not limited to, the demonization of others for starters.
Nope. Not going along with that either. There comes “A Time for Refusal“. Keep your humanity and basic decency intact. Don’t go along with the crowd, the mob, or the “new normal”.
Currently, the results of the national election show Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by over 2 million votes (a lead that continues to grow, btw, a week later… hmm). It’s way past time for the Electoral College to go, to be gone. A couple of petitions: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19 . The electors of the Electoral College still have to do a formal vote that day. This petition has 4.3 million signers as of this morning. It’s a longshot of course but if you really don’t want to see Trump take office, it’s one of the last chances you may have.
And finally there’s this, which may be the most effective. E-mail the electors directly at Ask the Electors.org. Longshot for sure… but it’s the last line of defense before Dec. 19th.
How bad could things get here in the U.S.? Chris Hedges over at Truthdig has a few ideas on that in his most recent essay. Well worth a read, even as sobering and bleak as it is. What’s that expression?… “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
Also a good read this week, complete with some helpful hints for future reference, comes this essay from Masha Gessen, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival“.
As bad as the outcome of the election was, equally bad was the media coverage of it and the campaign pretty much from the get-go. In fact, the media coverage has been more infuriating and I didn’t even watch much of it on TV. They are more than complicit in this national disaster. It was just pervasive everywhere you went – online or otherwise. The sensationalistic headlines, the coverage of Trump seemingly 24/7, the polls, the dissemination of lies, the Twitter fights and ridiculous reports of them as if they were real news, and on and on ad nauseum. Again, disgusting. This applies equally to the leftist media outlets as well as those on the right.
The election cycle needs to be shortened and all the pundits, the pollsters, the smarmy commentators, most of whom don’t deserve the air time they get, et al. need to go the way of the Electoral College, i.e., out the fucking exit door, get rid of them all. It wasn’t just pervasive, it was abusive. The American people are in an abusive relationship with its endless proliferation of media and addiction to it. And you know what you do when you find yourself in an abusive relationship?… You walk away from it; you leave…
And you go on with your life. Live your best life now.
Big Bend, as in national park Big Bend, in far West Texas, bordering Mexico, and separated by the mighty, muddy Rio Grande River. Think Fandango (a young Kevin Costner) and No Country For Old Men (Tommy Lee Jones)…
I was reminded, via Facebook post this week (thanks John!), that today, August 27th, was the day the St. Mark’s School of Texas Class of 1975, from Dallas – about 92-93 of us – boarded buses, along with our Outward Bound instructors and select faculty from the school, and set off at 7:00 a.m. 45 years ago for the remote and rugged Big Bend country south of Alpine and Marfa for an adventure. We would be there for 10 days – 5 in the Chisos Mountains, 5 on the Rio Grande River.
This was the official start of our freshman year, 1971. The first Outward Bound trip (mandatory for us) had come into being that year as an alternative and replacement for the annual rite of passage known as Freshman Day at the school – a one-day melee which involved a lot of shaving cream, silly string, dunkings in the library courtyard fountain and general harassment from the seniors toward the incoming freshman class. The trip to Big Bend was supposed to end that tradition, which it did (I think), and was to be our rite of passage.
I was 14 at the time. I had just come back to Dallas from my first summer of working up at the Evergreen Conference in Evergreen, Colorado only the week before. Mostly I was helping out with routine maintenance and kitchen duties, although the first job I was assigned was to clean out the incinerator which probably hadn’t been touched in a couple of decades. It had to be the dirtiest, nastiest job my supervisors could think of to give me as an initiation and I’m sure they were laughing their asses off that entire week I was cleaning it out. On the brighter side, I was always off work by 2:30 and could hike or hang out down at Bear Creek the rest of the afternoon; there’d been a summer romance with a girl from the Midwest, and The Who’s album Who’s Next had just been released and was on the Denver FM stations constantly. “The Song Is Over” (featuring Nicky Hopkins’ excellent piano work) from that album quickly became my favorite song and still is to this day.
And then came the trip to Big Bend…
First of all, it’s absolutely beautiful country – if you’ve been there, you know and if you haven’t, you should definitely go. I remember we got there late in the afternoon and were glad to get off the buses after 12 hours. We quickly divided into groups – several of them would go to the river first, several would stay in the mountains. I was in one of the groups that would get the mountains first. We all ate hamburgers for dinner, then got our gear and said adios to the groups that were headed for the river… and later we camped out under a cloudless sky filled with a million stars. Will never forget that… I just stared up at the sky for the longest time, ’til I fell asleep.
And the first five days of the trip in the mountains were the best, at least for me. We hiked the trails, hiked up to Lost Mine Peak with 35-40 lb. packs on our backs; I remember I was reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath at the time and had it tucked away in my pack. The days were predictably hot (but it was a dry heat), the nights cool because it was the desert. One classmate broke his ankle and had to be carted out – I remember that; the highlights: a 200-foot free rappel down a sheer vertical rock wall where you could lower yourself as fast or as slow as you wanted, an overnight mini-solo in the wilderness, and of course, those cool desert nights. We may have all sweated like pigs during the day, but the mountains were “no sweat” and essentially familiar terrain.
The same could not be said of the days on the river, the muddy Rio Grande. In fact, as I thought about this trip in the weeks leading up to it, the time on the river was the part I had been dreading. For good reason as it turned out. Most of the time in the boat on the river was boring – if it got too hot, which it inevitably did, you just rolled off the side into the river and floated along. There were raft wars, wasp wars, swatting at the damn wasps with the frying pans in our packs, but then I also remember one day hearing the guys in the boat up in front of us starting to sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” so we all started to sing along in ours. That was cool.
I remember being in the boat – and we were always switching into other boats – that helped two guys cross the river from the Mexican side to the U.S. side. I remember seeing dead livestock in the quicksand near the river, a dead horse… a body floating downstream, lifeless. A human body. Those who were in that particular boat that day will remember… ’cause we were all a little freaked out, even the Outward Bound guy. Most of the time on the river was fairly peaceful and then you’d have the occasional rapids and everyone would work as one to get through them. For whatever reason I happened to see a lot of death on the river. At 14 years of age, it leaves an impression… Can’t unsee it.
And then there was the last day… It was supposed to be an easy day – only one last set of rapids before the takeout point. I wish I had all the pictures I took on this trip – I was telling a classmate I had shot 12 rolls of film on the trip, actually was bragging about it as I was a bit more of a camera buff back then, in the photography club at school and all. But they were lost that last day, never got to see ’em – my camera, waterlogged and ruined even before the raft turned over. The following passage comes from a journal entry I wrote much later, 25 years after the fact, looking back on what happened, and now 20 years ago… For those who remember, this will fill in some gaps.
What I remember about that last half-mile or so before the takeout point… I see the three of us – Mark, Mike, and me – in the boat, coming through the rapids and it was late in the afternoon; it was actually quite beautiful because there was that “cinematic honeydew light” that you get just ahead of sundown. The golden hour. We were actually coming through those rapids quite late in the day and I remember watching the boat up in front of us – I was at the back of our boat, playing captain. But the boat up in front of us hit a hole in the middle of the river; I watched their boat dip into it and then watched as it veered off way to the right toward the rock wall on the south side of the river. I remember thinking we had to avoid that hole and so we started paddling harder and I was trying to steer the boat as best I could away from it. Well of course, that proved futile and we ended up dipping down into it as well. And sure enough, we started drifting way to the right just like the boat in front of us did. Even so, I didn’t think we were in immediate trouble – then just as quickly realized we were. That would have been when the boat was getting too close to the rock wall and then as the boat got stuck against the wall by the current moments later.
The first thing that happened when the boat got stuck was that Mark, who was sitting up at the very front, got swept away by the current. The river just swept into the boat with such force he was gone in an instant, and I can still remember that look of surprise he had because he turned around in the water looking back at us and then he was downstream, gone. I remember that being kind of an ‘oh shit’ moment and yeah, I knew we were in trouble. So it was just me and Mike in the boat at that point and he’s still trying to paddle and I’m trying to push us off the rock wall with my paddle. I was noticing also that the water was pushing against the boat with such force that the boat was starting to inch its way up the rock wall itself and eventually it was going to turn over on us. Mike turned around and yelled, “What are we gonna do, Thomas?” It was very clear we couldn’t stay where we were and wait for the boats behind us. The river wasn’t going to let us do that ‘cause it was going to flip the boat over on top of us. It seemed like the only thing we could do is try to jump and swim away from the boat and the rock wall as far as we could, get out into the current and go with it. That would be the instinctual thing, right? I yelled back at Mike to swim hard toward the center [of the river]. That was the plan, so he pushed off and went into the river and now I’m all alone and the boat is even more at an angle.
I don’t remember being scared here, probably because there wasn’t time to be scared and possibly because I didn’t fully understand just how dangerous a situation we were in. Sometimes it’s good not to know. A few moments later, I took a deep breath and moved my foot to the left side of the boat, getting ready to push off… then tried to push off but my foot slipped and next thing I know I’m in the water, underwater, and the boat has landed on top of me. OK… now I’m scared. There were some duffel bags in the boat, a few strongboxes and some other equipment but there wasn’t a whole lot which was good because that stuff wasn’t tied down and now this stuff is landing on top of me and I was pushing my way back up to the surface through it. There were only three of us in the boat when this happened. Usually there were 4-6 of us in a boat and one instructor from Outward Bound or one of the teachers who came on this trip but for that last set of rapids we did not have any of the ‘grown-ups’ on board.
When I was still underneath the boat and trying to push it away, I did surface briefly then went back under. I surfaced a few seconds later and saw the sky, caught my breath, and went back under again. There was no control over anything – I was just simply at the mercy of the current. I remember thinking, “Well, this is it, I’m gonna drown…” and the next thing I knew, I could see the sky again and I’ve got a small canister of Kodak film in my mouth. Really. This time I was able to keep my head above water and I was just carried along with the current.
Eventually that current brought me into the same small inlet where it had deposited Mike. We both ended up in a small eddy in a cove on the Mexico side of the river, then scrambled up out of the water onto a small grassy area and watched while the last couple of boats passed by us. I started blowing a whistle, trying to alert any of the boats passing by; Mike pulled out his pocket Bible and was praying (he eventually became a preacher). That we both “landed” in this semi-hidden cove I’ve always thought of as highly providential (the second meaning of the word). It took an hour-and-a-half to two hours to send a motorboat in and get us out of there.
All three of us eventually got to camp that night, ate dinner as we were all starving by then, re-told what had happened out there on the river. Everything I had brought on the trip was lost; the clothes I came out of the water wearing were the ones I wore on the bus the next day heading back home. At least they were dry by then. By the time the buses got to Sweetwater on I-20 on September 6th, and the local Dairy Queen – 200 cheeseburgers ordered, oops sorry, 198 cheeseburgers and 2 hamburgers owing to a classmate’s allergies (hey Robert!) – things started to feel more “normal” again. Actually, those were the best-tasting DQ burgers I ever remember having had, before or since.
For the next year(s?) St. Mark’s decided to hold the freshman Outward Bound trip elsewhere… which turned out to be the Pecos Wilderness area in New Mexico near Santa Fe. As far as I know (I transferred to Irving Cistercian the following year, but not because of the trip), the Class of 1975 was the only class who ever made the trip and completed the course in Big Bend – we were trailblazers! And for those who made this trip and were there, I salute you! It is an indelible part of our experience, individual and collective. On this 45th anniversary.
Nights on Venus News: The new single “Speed of Life” will be released mid-October. Yes, the David Bowie song “Speed of Life”. Licensing/permission has been obtained. It will be a 2-song single also featuring a new original “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not A Robot)”, both instrumentals, and the two songs will be on the album “We Are All Haunted By Something”, scheduled for release in June, 2017. Stay tuned for updates. A mini-interview I did recently with Bandwidth Daily should be up online soon.
First of all, Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the U.S. of A.! Hope everyone has a safe, fun-filled holiday – go catch some fireworks tonight wherever you are as we celebrate the nation’s 239th birthday!
As the final touches are being applied to the Santos EP (and now I have just signed off on it), a look back to July, 2010… literally. A photo essay back to that time… before there was a Nights on Venus.
I took a little trip out to the Mandala Center just outside of the small town of Des Moines in northeastern New Mexico. And when I say small, it really is – the population was 161 in 2010. If you drive from the Panhandle of Texas up to Colorado, you know where this town is; it’s just a place you drive though before you get to Raton and the interstate (25). For me it was a destination and a personal retreat for 5 days that summer.
I had booked the 5 days at the Mandala Center before I got laid off from my job as a web developer at the end of April, the second time that I had been laid off, as an I.T. contractor, in as many years. I could have cancelled my time at the center, gotten my money back, because now I was unemployed again, but I didn’t want to and thought it was important to have those days to myself. I was living in Dallas at the time; I’d already paid for those days and I needed the change of scenery. So I went…
On U.S. 287, the time-honored route through West Texas that every Texan going to Colorado knows because really, it’s the only route. At Dumas, you have a choice: take U.S. 87 and you go through the corner of northeastern New Mexico, the more scenic route. It’s high desert between Clayton and Raton; Des Moines and the Mandala Center is about halfway between.
The first thing about the summer of 2010 is that it was exceptionally hot. Normally, temperatures for this area, once you get up above 6,000 feet, are about 85-90 degrees F. (29-32 degrees C.) in July. Since I was staying somewhere that didn’t have air-conditioning, I had planned for that and figured the nights at least would be cool. That summer the temps were hovering around the 100-degree mark. I was a little concerned ’cause I really don’t do hot weather anymore. Not at all.
Essentially, Nights on Venus came into being during those 5 days at the Mandala Center.
I had begun recording a few songs back in May, the first exploratory efforts after diving into the world of computer-based recording. I had a few songs written and started with them – took my last full paycheck from the job that had just ended and bought everything I needed for recording because I figured at age 53, as an I.T. contractor and having been laid off/unemployed for 7 months the previous year, it was probably going to be the last decent paycheck I’d get to be able to do this. That actually proved to be correct…
There were other people staying at the Mandala Center, 8 of us all total, all there on our own personal retreats for various reasons and staying in the Wolf Lodge. The Mandala Center itself I feel is a very special place; it offers workshops, classes, and a place for personal retreats in a beautiful, remote setting and you can check it out here. It may resonate with you and I highly recommend it. For one thing, the stillness and the quiet here are just overwhelming. There really are no distractions. The stars at night and the Milky Way were as brilliant here as anywhere I’ve seen them, including Crestone (Colorado). And no TV, no cell phone reception (courtesy of my carrier… from Dalhart, TX to Walsenburg, CO, the “cone of silence” was in effect) or laptop – no wi-fi! All of which made for an environment perfectly suited to thinking about “what comes next”.
Which turned out to be Nights on Venus… I settled on the name while I was there. “Nights From a Rooftop” (from the 1st album) was one of the songs from that first set of songs recorded in May. The title “Another Day in Paradox” originated here. That became title and the title track for the album 3 years later.
Every day Capulin Mountain dominated the landscape just to the northwest; behind me rose Sierra Grande. Pages of journal entries written there those 5 days (I’ve been keeping a journal since 1986) could be distilled down to a couple of lines: “No ambivalence. Work on music, work on myself.”
Obviously I took a lot of photographs while I was there… and left with some sense of direction.
The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, is scheduled to be released on 7/8/15 at all the usual online outlets.
Well, mostly unplugged. I may have checked e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter a couple of times over the last 3 days on the laptop which is a far cry from business as usual these days and further aided by the fact that there was no cell phone coverage where we were (probably wouldn’t have mattered if there had been, I’ve had a run of bad luck with cell phones lately). And it felt kind of… weird. Actually, it felt like the kind of high country trips I used to take in the ‘old days’, back in the 90’s, long before the advent of instant (and constant) connectivity, Wi-Fi, Google, and Androids.
The idea for the weekend was to just truly get away, unwind… disconnect. Unplug. And South Park is still an ideal place to do that. It’s always been one of my favorite areas in Colorado from the time I got stranded in the small town of Alma overnight during a whiteout in ’92 and stayed at the hotel (and I use the term loosely) down the street.
So here’s a photo essay of the last few days, a rather lengthy one with a little bit of everything including a rare tornado. Click on the pics to enlarge…
And then we head back into town…
We did stay at the Mountain Comfort Bed & Breakfast just outside of town on Highway 9; I highly recommend this bed and breakfast for your own vacation getaway or family reunion. Sandy and Ernie are the perfect hosts and see to it that you have everything you need. Rooms are cozy, comfortable, and rustic, the setting is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful, and the breakfasts were amazing. We will definitely be back!
A recent review of “Summer Madness”: “This slow, instrumental piece relies on creating an ever-changing moody atmosphere to relax and calm you. With slower, jazzier ambiance that collectively builds throughout, this well done Nights On Venus release is one for the crowd that likes to slow dance and take it easy when listening to music.” – Curt Dennis, Bluestribute.net