Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15

San Francisco sax busker, Justin Ward. He plays parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs too! He rocks!

OK, so it's settled. I don't know what it is, but I just realized yesterday that drums are great, drums are essential, but I'm probably just going to annoy most people - after what may be years of unpaid work - by being a street drummer. And I like melody too. Being a busker with good rhythm will be enough, and be more than most buskers can manage.

The guy emailed back about the Reso-Tone 3 clarinet. He wants to meet at the California Avenue CalTrain station, and I suggested we do so at 7PM tomorrow evening. That gives me time to stop by my bank for the money and get over there.

I can't find what I found before, about that model being designed after Pete Fountain's clarinets, to be a very good one that just happens to be made of plastic instead of wood. Maybe I've got it mixed up with another model? In any case if it's in good condition, the $200 he wants is worth it especially since I think it comes with a good student mouthpiece, a "Hite" I believe? As good as the (locally produced) Fobes Debut I dunno, but the reviews are good.

July 14

I guess the 45 minutes or so I messed around on Guitar Center's drums counted as yesterday's practice.

I lugged the spectrum analyzer this guy had inquired about from the back of the shop to the office and had it all set up, and I was actually up an hour before he was due, at 1:30.

He came by, an old guy, one of these old engineer types, losing this and forgetting where he put that, "Where'd my 50-ohm load go? I thought I'd brought it...." etc.

It turned out the one spec-an was full of bugs. I lugged the other one out, which *had* been here in the office but I'd put in back, and he tested that quite thoroughly while I put things away and puttered around, and in the end he thought he could work with it, and wrote a check to Ken for $1300.

The guy intimated that he had a Wikipedia entry out there about him and it turns out he was Employee #5 at Apple, had gotten a bunch of patents on transconductance measurement when he worked for Hickok instruments, and done a bunch of other neat stuff. There's material galore about him online, and a lot of things Woz gets credit for, he actually did. (Not that Woz didn't do a ton, and wasn't an excellent engineer.)

And here he is, at around age 80, still working, being driven around by his "girlfriend" in a dirty old car that wouldn't be allowed on an Ugly Duckling Rent-A-Car lot, and pretty much unknown except for the very few nerds who follow the history of Apple closely.

So, that out of here, and with a big check on hand to give to Ken, it's been a decent day.

I'm feeling kind of low, though, because I'm pretty far from being able to go out busking, as I'm realizing that it's going to take a good while to get decent on drums, and then it's a matter of how easily I can drag all kinds of drums, even "street" drums, around with me.

It doesn't help that last night, while scrounging around for shipping materials, I met a guy who asked me if I'd "checked in with security" and turned out to be a metal scrapper, but one who aspired to be above the level of the usual scrappers, but planned to get certifications that would allow him to get scrap that's confidential, mil-spec, and so on, and get companies funneling their scrap to him. He'd been a "process engineer" for years and had hated it. He'd also learned drums, but somehow becoming a professional scrapper was more interesting to him than drums.

When I think about it, Yes I've attained some ability on the trumpet. Not a lot of it, and dearly paid for with years of work, but there it is. Just about the ultimate wind instrument. I could always go out busking with my trumpet again ....

But it's so frustrating being able to barely venture above the staff. The spit valves are just plain disgusting. And it's just so easy to fuck up. With a total of 7 finger positions, only 5 of which are generally used, it'd seem easy. But it's not that easy because they don't make sense the way a piano keyboard or a guitar fret board does. I don't remember blowing nearly so many "clams" when I played clarinet, even though I didn't go that far with it. I'd tried clarinet as a preparation for the sax.

I'd even rented a sax for a bit, but was depressed for other reasons (drinking) and didn't actually play it much. But as for going above the staff, no problem! The sax felt big to me and hard to reach stuff, but realistically speaking, 10-year-olds play the sax. I have a feeling that, like the flute, at first it feels hard to do and then before I'd know it, it's easy and feels easy to reach things and stable and secure.

I mean, it's all blowing, but there are different kinds of blowing. For instance, at this jazz in the park thing, I tried the trombone there and could not get a peep out of it. But on the alto sax I rented, I could push a little and get notes you could call a dolphin with. So range, not a problem.

Of the instruments that sound good solo, I'd have to put piano and guitar at the head of the list, because a player can play melody and harmony at the same time. After those two it tapers off. Solo flute is ... not all that great. Solo trumpet may be a bit better but not that much better. Solo sax is a bit better than that, and I like the sound better. It's got more of an edge, and unlike trumpet where apparently it's considered OK to sound out of tune and like shit up high, on sax maybe it's easier to stay in tune up high.

My most recent "hit" was Woolly Bully, but on trumpet I can only play a basic version of it - which seemed to be fine with the public, but on sax I could more easily play that cool sax solo that's in it, and it'd be on sax.

So if I were going to pursue this, first is to get a clarinet, and I've found a Vito Reso-Tone3, a clarinet I happen to know a bit about, on Craig's List for $200 and have sent the guy an email.  What I happen to know about this particular one is that it was designed to be a non-wooden but otherwise "pro" clarinet and Pete Fountain had something to do with its development. It's a "sleeper" of a horn.

It was so long ago I was busking on clarinet. I was on the corner in front of Easy Foods, and there were 3 drunk guys, the one in the middle near to falling down and the other two holding him up as they traveled along the sidewalk across the street, and I played "How Dry I Am" as loud as I could, and thought they couldn't hear me. But of course they probably could. And of course I'd not be that loud as a beginner using a #2 reed. The truth is I did OK that day, money wise, and was loud enough. I even had an old guy tell me he loves the sound of the clarinet.

Drummers comment a fair amount about the lack of rhythm sense that's commonly found in non-drumming musicians, and I like to think I've got a bit more rhythm sense than most, but I can see now that it's going to take a fair amount of work, unpaid, to be able to call myself anything like a real drummer.

I think there's a living to be made playing drums, if I had a van to carry the kit around in, which would bring on the problems and expense of owning a motor vehicle, and the tons of extra work it would take to afford the thing.

There's a living in guitar, if you learn classical, music-reading, and get some kind of teaching credential. Rockers and folkies are dime a dozen on guitar.

Needless to say, there's a living in piano, if you're ace at playing, reading music, have some kind of teaching credential, etc.

Trumpet and brass in general get more difficult. There are not the sheer numbers of people who want to play them that you get with guitar or piano or drums. They don't sound as good solo as a solo sax, violin, keyboard, or guitar, given the same level of skill.

The sax just has a GOOD sound, if played with enough skill.

I was told by Mr. Sowlakis I had a good tone on clarinet, and I dunno if he was just blowing smoke or not. But I'm inclined to assume he's not a total BS'er.

Why would my airway and lungs and so on be more suited to clarinet and sax than trumpet? Who knows. Maybe like Benny Carter, I'd find the trumpet too daunting, take up the sax, then come back to trumpet years later.

I do know this: I could learn "jazz standards" until I'm blue in the face, but that's not what I grew up on. What really gets me are all those crazy guitar riffs in all that 1960s and 1970s music I grew up immersed in. And since I'm not a guitar player I can't just do what thousands of 1970s kids did and learn them on guitar; and frankly they'd sound kind of dumb on trumpet. It'd take a Wynton Marsalis or Terance Blanchard to pull them off, anyway, and those guys are up in the stratosphere.

There's a living in playing sax. The reason is, the sax is cool. It's like having an electric guitar without having to have an amp and all that.

A guy who makes a living playing sax. Maybe not ideal, but better than 99% of jobs. 

Above is the "Safe Sax" guy on Freemont Street in Las Vegas. He's probably playing 2-3 hours an evening at most, and making more than most engineers, without the engineers' 60-hour workweeks.

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13

I was up at 2, had some chicory coffee and packed some things to ship, and did my exercises.

I rode downtown, stopping at the post office to drop the packages off, then at my bank to put $200 of my pay check in. I'm actually $50 up from this time last week, so the payment for the trumpet must have come out of my account.

I went over to Target and went to park my bike ... there were a couple of ratty looking homeless guys hanging out by the bike racks, one of them very heavily tattooed. As I locked the bike up, one of them came up with a piece of chain and measured it against mine, and we agreed it's the same size. He asked if I wanted it, and I said, "Well, a person can always use a spare" and he handed it to me and said, "Take it". I said I'd go inside and get some change, and give him $10 anyway. It's a bit shorter than mine and doesn't have a cloth covering, but mine cost me over $60 new. All I'd need is another "Pac-Man" lock and I'd have a whole separate lock and chain set. The kind of thing you don't think you'll need, until you do.

I went in and got two bottles of rubbing alcohol and some foot powder, got my change, and handed the guy his $10. We talked about panhandling and signs and so on, and telling jokes, and I wowed 'em with a couple of mine, learned right off of 1980s rock and roll radio. Thank you, KLOS.

I went over to Whole Foods and had my usual, salad greens with a couple of chicken thighs on top, and a fizzy water. After eating, I shopped around, buying a bag of cocoa nibs and some radishes. It turns out there are two separate places they have cocoa nibs and cocoa butter, and one's 2/3ds the price of the other. So I got the cheaper ones.

I then went to Guitar Center because it'd been a while since I'd been there and I can at least do more little riffs than I could before. Two other guys wanted to borrow "practice" sticks at the same time I asked for some, and I got the crappiest ones again. "The heavy metal guys come in and break 'em up!" the drum guy said. Eh, like I can tell the difference anyway.

And as usual it's a humbling experience spending any time in the drum room, what with the 9 year old chubby girl going from drum set to drum set and showing off what she'd obviously been learning from lessons, with her admiring family following along. And some guys in there who ranged from good to (to me, anyway) really good. I tried mimicking stuff some of the others were doing which may or may not have annoyed them, and tried coordinating my right foot, on the bass drum, with my left hand, on snare, trying to beat the bass on 1 and 3, and then just on 1 reliably. Ugh! I did finally start to get it.

The Tommy Igoe course I have is "Great Hands For A Lifetime" not "Great Feet For A Lifetime" but even the exercises in there show bass drum notes on 1, on each exercise. Maybe it's that fundamental (footimental?)

So I'm wondering if I should look at getting a foot pedal that I can use with a box or something. There's a used one at Guitar Center for $40. There's a pretty cheap high-hat there too.

I was in there maybe 40 minutes, and all in all it was fun.

On the way back downtown I stopped by the Midtown Safeway where I picked up heavy whipping cream, Farmer John sausages, and some little cupcake cups I think I can melt cocoa butter and pour it into, because the cheaper stuff comes in these big chunks.

I got to Cafe Stritch before they started asking for the $5 cover charge so I saved a bit there. Mainly, I wanted to see Wally Schnalle play. If I'm going to take lessons from him, I want to see the guy doing his thing. And he can *really* get around on some drums. If Jason Lewis was coloring with the Crayola 32-color set, Wally's using the big ol' 64-color set. Plus the music he was playing with his band was a level or two above what I'm used to hearing in the Sunday jam.

I just feel like ... well ... having saved only $50 this week, if I'd taken a lesson then I'd have only saved $10. I feel like I should be able to make, by drumming, the money for drum lessons. And for lessons to be productive, I should be in the habit of practicing at least a solid hour a day and more like a couple or a few.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 12

Up at 10:30 because I got a call from a guy who wants to come over and look at a spectrum analyzer. A big, heavy, one so I'm happy to have the guy come over and test it, buy it, and (with my help) load it into his car and get it outta here.

He sounds interesting, in that he's got a "shop" in San Francisco, and doesn't drive, so his girlfriend, a cab driver, will have to take him here. I told him evenings or this Saturday are fine. What's nice is, not only would this get a big, heavy piece of equipment out of here, but it should be at least a $1000 sale.

Last night, after getting a batch of stuff ready to photograph and sell, I got out the practice pad and sticks and did some practice down here. Drumming on my knee is just not the best way; I noticed I was getting trained into using really weird angles of the drum sticks so I'll have to do my practice on the pad which is mounted on my awesome Sears tripod.

I notice the sort of poster that comes with the Tommy Igoe showing the beginning, intermediate, and advanced forms of the warm-up show where you're supposed to put in accents on the bass drum if you're on a drum kit, so I practiced a bit tapping my right foot at the right times and it wasn't too hard to do.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 11

I was up at 3 and read on Reddit that ICE is abusing pregnant women, putting shackles around their bellies etc. in hopes they'll miscarry and not give birth to little brown American citizens. And Der Drumpfenfuehrer is over in Europe making an ass of himself, saying Germany is "ruled by" Russia because they're buying Russian, not US, natural gas. Oh, and a US senator from Sacramento is sending out robo-phone calls about how we "must stop the Jews, they're taking over the world".

So, yeah, those who didn't live through the late 1930s are doomed to repeat them?

I packed up two oscilloscopes to go out, one to France, and got those mailed. Ken came over at about 10 in the evening, helped me find a relay I could not find, to send out, and we talked a bit about Tesla and old radios and things.

When I was done packing the 2nd scope, with the door open a bit to let some air in, Renee showed up at the door trying to shove a can of something, Freon?, saying "You guys might want this..." I sprung up with "No! We do not want it!" and "Git!!" and I slammed the door after her.

So, after delivering the scopes and coming back with more packing materials, I set out again and stopped at Lowe's for a "NO SOLICITING" sign and one about video camera being in use. These I affixed to the door.

When Ken came over and was getting out of his truck, he muttered "Here comes Renee" and when he came inside I asked him if he's been doing anything to encourage the bums around to interact with us, and he said he hasn't. When he left, he noticed Renee had left the can sitting on the hood of his truck and handed it to me, "Oh, just put this inside". I said, "No way! It's from her!" and I took the augur on my Swiss Army Knife and drilled a hole in the side (it turned out to be some kind of rather pleasant smelling cleaner) and threw it out into the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

July 10

Up at a bit after 2.

It's very warm, and the place next door is busy, busy, busy. They must have a big contract or something because they didn't quit until 11 last night.

I'd picked up a sort of rolling thing with Formica coated shelves and top that I think will fit OK where my fridge is, with the fridge on top. So after taking a package to FedEx I gathered up some boxes and packing material, took that back, loaded up with trash (I had a lot of trash and junk) and put that in various places, then took this thing back to the shop. I cleaned it up today.

I got all the things except two oscilloscopes and a relay I can't find, together and packed them to ship and took them up to the post office and then went to 99 Ranch for groceries, again spending just under $40 because it was just under $20 and I got $20 back.

Then I went to H Mart and spent $14-odd so I've got $110 of my last check saved in the bank, and $10 in cash on hand so that will be it until Friday.

I went scouting around for boxes and stuff and there's not much, but I need to get rid of trash so it's worth it to go out again with the bike trailer. On my way back along Junction, there was a mariachi band practicing in this truck loading area that slopes down, so it makes a nice sort of outdoor concert hall. I was thinking, "Wow, these guys are even more cacophonous than usual" and "I wonder if I should bring my trumpet on the way back?" and then I realized: they don't have a drummer. How fun it would be, if I had a decent snare and a stand and could show up with those, and dish out that 1-2-3 rhythm.

I went back out with a load of trash and got rid of it, picked up a couple of boxes, and got back here. I finally got the rolling cart/table thing situated with the fridge/freezer (freshly cleaned) on top and it works out great.

Monday, July 9, 2018

July 9

Up at a bit before 2, went to bed at close to 7AM.

As usual these days, I watched videos on YouTube while practicing drumming on my knee. I'm developing the ability to do a single-stroke roll for a longer and longer time. I'm trying to, at the very least, get in a hour a day messing around like this.

I'm competing with people whose parents bought them drum sets when they were kids, and who were always drumming, on their desks at school or whatever, wherever. People like Alex who works at The Old Spaghetti Factory and always carries sticks with him.

Mickey Hart said something in his book "Drumming On The Edge Of Magic" that a good rudimental drummer can keep the troops entertained for long periods of time just riffing along, keeping it interesting. His parents were champion rudimental drummers (there were contests in the 30s and 40s) and he grew up playing on his (absent) father's practice pad.

To me, rudimental drumming (a good example of this is in the song "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover") sounds kinda weird. I prefer drumming that's part of the music, of which examples abound from any Who song to pretty much all pop and background music you don't really think about, to wonderful pieces like "Take 5" and things like "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson.

July 8

I was up at maybe 2 or so ... I put the new strings on the Yamaha guitar last night and roughly turned it by ear, just need to clean it and the "Huntington" guitar up and put them onto Craig's List.

Ken came by in the late afternoon and stayed until a quarter to 7, neatening things up. He also found some more things to list, in amongst some stuff that just needs to be tossed. So I'll put the stuff to get tossed out in some boxes or tubs and take it far away from here so some other bums, not the bums around here, get it.

After Ken left I set out for 99 Ranch, H Mart, and Lowe's for some stocking up on food and paper towels. Between all of those I spent about $50 so that leaves $150 of my last pay check in the bank. I will allow myself $50 more at most.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Friday, July 6, 2018

July 6

Up at about 2, due to a phone call coming in, that I was not in time to answer.  I called back and just got a message. Probably some kind of spam.

I also had a text saying I had to make a phone payment, so that was another thing to take care of.

I packed two things to send out; a package of diodes and a package of 3 big fat vintage potentiometers (variable resistors) going to a guy in Viet Nam, and took those to the downtown post office first. Then it was to the bank, where after putting my $200 in I find my balance to be, indeed, $190 above where it was last week.

Next after this was the phone place where I paid my $32-odd for the phone bill. Then I went to Target and got rubbing alcohol and some foot powder.

After this I rode over to Dai Thanh and got some French Market chicory coffee, coconut milk, and curry paste.

Then it was over to Whole Foods, my home away from home, where I got a bunch of salad with two chicken thighs on top and a bottle of fizzy water, costing just under $11. I chowed down and then put my locker code in and got my copy of Accents and Rebounds by George Lawrence Stone, in beautiful condition and a beautiful book., with little Dance Dance Revolution type arrows (and dashes) for 4 different types of drum stick stroke. Pretty crazy.

Then I went back in and got avocados, veggies, and a bag each of cocoa nibs and cocoa butter. I've tried putting a piece of cocoa butter in my coffee and less cream, and it's interesting. While the cocoa butter has no flavor, there's a chocolate aroma about it that adds to the already delicious chicory coffee taste.

I noticed Recorder Ron in front of the Starbucks on Santa Clara and Rabbit Trumpet Guy by the Old Spaghetti Factory, mangling the oldies into unrecognizability with equal measures of his awful rhythm and his over-the-top schmaltzy vibrato.

All this buying left me with $0 in bills after stopping by Nijiya for a Lotte "Ghana" dark chocolate bar, so this week will be interesting, financially speaking.

It seems everyone involved with the Accents and Rebounds book is as ga-ga as I am over Joe Morello. I mean, I watch videos of drummers on YouTube and while Buddy Rich does all this great stuff, I guess, his playing doesn't do much for me musically.

I guess Buddy Rich's playing is sort of the drumming equivalent of Van Halen's debut hit "Eruption" which was certainly attention-getting, but ultimately just a technical exercise. Virtuosity for its own sake.

July 15

San Francisco sax busker, Justin Ward. He plays parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs too! He rocks! OK, so it's settled. I don...