Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Note to the reader who cares (and the ones who don't):
My apologies for such a long void between now and my last entry.
When last I left off, I told you I was about to attempt Mt. Adams;
some of you may have even thought that I died up there or whatnot---understandable. I suppose the rest of you actually
know me even better than I do, but don't assume that that makes
me the Boy Who Cried Wolf or anything. ;) I "Never Cry Wolf"
unless I really think one is there, and an accident may still occur
on one of these mountains/excursions, sooner or later, minus the
ability to cry at all; just being a realist in light of the risk these climbs entail, but no worries. ;)
Also, I think it's important that I make you aware of something else before I continue on with what is, essentially, a story
about utter - yet temporary - failure. There are very good reasons
for everything that has happened, and not happened, thus far.
The thing is, I'm doing both of these projects to constitute two motion picture films that I plan on producing in the not-too-distant future. I once thought, "there's no better subject matter a
person could possibly be a better authority on than something they themselves are doing." "Yes, Dean." I answered myself back, "I like that. F-ck it. Let's do it!"
Thus, as the plan goes...
Travels Rendered will be my first film, which is a documentary about my musical travels through the American West and elsewhere. This will be fairly easy to produce, I just have to travel a little more. But (film title TBA), which I just returned from after attempting to summit the Cascade mountain range, will be the next film, and will involve a lot more than just a music based documentary.
Other than being the result of a variety of film techniques, it will also be ladened with what seem to be exclusively conceived
philosophies that I've never expressed in any public fashion---considering how I've never been much of a soap-box guy (and whether or not they've actually been previously conceived by countless others without my knowing it). At this point, I will be using the mountains to "elevate" my philosophies, or maybe just my confidence for sharing them. Either way, it is more work than
one can imagine, and considering how many failed attempts I have behind me now, I may actually skip making the Travels
Rendered documentary so I can focus on the bigger film and the greater triumph. Also, continuing to run a label and release music as a recording artist, which I have every intention of doing until the day I die, will be tricky enough to juggle with just one lofty ambition.
The music -- on-location inspiration for ideas, and sound checks at the base camp of
each mountain so that music fidelity in the middle of freezing wind at the summit is not too atrocious.
The script -- on-location inspiration to write down the proper wording so that any common
threads I'm tying between scientific/historical facts about the mountain and my own
philosophies, while on the mountain, are clearly expressed and understood.
The filming -- taking time and care enough to film the best moments possible, at the best angles, every step of the way.
The equipment -- all of the survival equipment needed in high-altitude ranges, and all of the properly charged music, video and audio equipment nessessary for making this film, down to the last detail.
With all of this in mind, it's no wonder I've had so many difficulties with the project.
However, realizing this fact has taken me from feeling totally depressed about my failures, to
being totally understanding and even patting myself on the back for the magnitude of what I'm trying to accomplish. Plus, I've gotten so good at doing all of this now, that I'm %100 confident I will have %100 success with the Summit Music Project
next year, whether or not I actually do. Even so, I'll be in
Washington for the entire summer to make sure it happens.
Like everyone else, friends have come and gone in my life, so through the years I managed to maintain only one good friend in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Luckily, on this last trip, I made a couple of future friends, so staying with more than just one won't be as much of an issue throughout the season next year.
Regarding this entry:
The photos and text I'm posting on here are a chronology of everything that happened from the point of my trip where I last posted up until now. Also, I take both you and this blog seriously
enough that I'm not going to lie to you or provide you with all-American-courtesy small talk.
There may actually be some readers (or friends) out there who think that this blog is a "feel-good" blog, or something for self help, but I can't even express how wrong that is. I keep this blog solely for the purpose of sharing and archiving myhonest experiences with these two projects, and anything that ties to them. I will write about anything that I think creates the story I want to tell, or that keeps a record I want to keep. I think I may have actually lost a couple of friends recently because we finally had it out after I realized that all they ever seemed to want to hear from me, regarding my life, was a bunch of one-sided, blind optimism, even when it came to blogs like this. That's not what I'm about, and never
lack of patience with the issues of one's fellow American does seem to be what this culture is about, among other modern hang ups/evasions. So, as you all know in your varying ways, it's
not always easy living in America. And, if you happen to be experiencing the same exact annoyances as I am here - e.g. people's inability to value sincerity and emotion in other beings unless it has something to do with cruel and/or stupid humor - then call me. We should get together and go bowling. I'll probably throw all strikes with that kind of inspiration.
Before even heading out on the road for this trip, I had been contacted by my aunt, on my father's side. She owns the house where I keep my studio and have lived with my west-coast cousin, being my aunt's daughter, for the past 10 years. My aunt gave me a month-long deadline to move out because she knew I had recently found another place to live/work, and because I have not always payed my rent on time. I had made my own bed, but man, right now sure was an inconvenient time to have to lie in it. I was in the middle of taking on a huge goal, and the pressure to move was adding another 100 pounds to the weight of my pack. And mega-bless Lisa's heart for helping out with that as much as she did, and for her undying support.
So, as you may have read on my last entry, after my Mt. Rainier attempt, I 'chillaxed' with my old friend Dave Israel and his family in Tacoma, and worked on my Rainier report/entry a little too long before heading out to Mt. Hood for an attempt there.
Basically, I didn't succeed on Mt. Rainier because the team was climbing too fast for
me and my weight; but I didn't succeed on Mt. Hood because I'm such a space cadet sometimes that a storm I had been hearing about rolled in sooner than I thought it would (as well as some rock fall risks I didn't consider). The risk on a mountain like that is just too great. Literally, the day before I arrived there, the authorities found two dead bodies that had been on Hood's glaciers for months. That kind of thing happens there often.
I was already clear on my narrative for this mountain, so I could've left early enough in the morning to beat the coming storm---if I hadn't still needed to come up with my music idea for the summit, as well as sound check it. Dowww!!!! Damn paces! I rushed anyway, hoping it would make a difference. After my late start, I hiked into the grey on Mt. Hood and soon turned back, having gotten a decent work out; this was good enough for me, regardless of the overall disappointment.
It's always good to have my life. And as far as my years of stupid-risk taking and near-death experiences go, they're hopefully long gone.
Still, "Next Year" was now becoming my motif on this trip,
without even realizing it.
I worked my way back to Dave's for another spell with the Israel
family. During my visits with him, Dave shared his new-found talent for creating electronic music. I had to admit, I was impressed, so large amounts of my time there were spent
encouraging him and his efforts, balanced with working on my
blog. Soon, the fun ended when I caught another glimpse of a
gloomy and lingering forecast. I rented more ice climbing gear and headed back towards Portland, this time to then go east, deep into the Cascade wilderness, and attempt Mt. Adams.
There was "NO WAY" I was going to "screw this one up," were the famous-last-words in my head. I could swear I had left early
enough to summit this mountain. Adams was supposed to be the easiest Cascade Volcano to climb, and it was just as important to my project as the other peaks
were. Well, that knowledge didn't help me one bit. I got there late in the evening because I had ran out of gas on the way; then, I basically had to write out my script - also inspired by the mountain - thus finally getting to bed at 4am when I was
supposed to be waking up to climb.
And it was the first time narration for a mountain took me that long to write.
The next day, a fellow hiker suggested I use the extra time to see Multnoma Falls - an Oregon landmark - instead of "wasting the day" at the base of Adams. Multnoma was about an hour and a half away. Feeling as cocky with time as I tend to get, I figured I could actually go there to make some music, and still make it back to base camp with time enough to come up with an on-
location musical idea, as well as sound-check it before getting an early night's rest. Friggin' LOL, buddy!!! I don't even think I need to go into detail about how bad a decision that was, but I will say that I made some fairly interesting a-cappella ambient
music at Multnoma Falls---on an extremely crowded bridge.
If you could imagine me making live ambient music while waiting on line for a ride at Disneyland, that's exactly what this was like. It was an extremely unworthy reward for such a great sacrifice, considering that by the time I got back to base camp and finished sound-checking, it was early the next morning again.
Refusing to try climbing a Cascade mountain with little sleep, I slept, and then headed out, mid-day. I met some very cool people on the way up, but exchanging numbers would not help me in this situation. After a long and beautiful climb, ending with altitude sickness at little over
10,000 feet, I realized that it was too late in the day to make it to the top by sundown. On top of that, the storm was suppose to roll in for sure by that evening, bringing a foot of snow to the entire Cascade range. It was a mystical time of day to be up there, but man... not a fun circumstance. So, I pondered what this meant while working my way back to the car at night, and soon got more lost than I've been in a really long
Just like the year before it, I had now lost my weather window to climb any of the northern Cascades, by a single day. Just like the year before it, the first storm of snow season rolled in hours before I could make it to the top of anything. I had been in Washington now for almost a month, and didn't even summit a single mountain. Looking at this pattern, I blamed myself, heavily, for not even wanting to succeed in
the first place. All of my past self-loathing were raining on me like the storm itself. But soon, as I stated above, I realized the magnitude of what I've been trying to accomplish, and just how massive an undertaking it truly is.
This was a relieving thing to realize on my own, without having to call Lisa or someone else for moral support. ,'-)~ I'm obviously getting better with that.
I licked my wounds at Dave's again for a few days, and focused on encouraging his music even further by offering to have an ambient
jam session/recording session with him somewhere out in the Washington rainforest.
He eagerly took me up on the offer, and my last day staying with him was spent out in the rainforest, making live ambient music.
Dave and I have known each other for an extremely long time. We were close hiking partners many years ago, and through much of that we even shared similar taste in music during our
ventures. To finally make tranquil music together out in the wilderness was a surreal turning point for the both of us, and we relished it as such. Also, what made this possible was
that Dave's method for making electronic music is kind of a new-found, "portable discovery" that I will talk more about in another entry.
After leaving Dave's, I stopped in Portland one last time, this time to visit my friend Howard Givens.
After he spent an afternoon spoiling me rotten with Portland ales, I headed east again, this time to visit a friend of a friend who lived in the beautiful, small town of Mosier, outside of Hood River. His name was Nigel: a fascinating man, with a fascinating family, in a fascinating town, and living in a beautiful house. Good times. The moment I arrived in Mosier, at twilight, they
took me to a party that was jollier and funky-er than most of the ones I find in LA---when I'm looking. I stayed with them for two nights in their guest house with a view of the country side, and because Nigel suggested that I record a track there, I did. I used my acoustic guitar. There was a kinship I felt with Nigel and his family, and they were a well-timed decompression.
Upon leaving their house, I decided that hope was not lost for the year. I would drive east and then cut south, through Bend and the scenic rout (seeing some highways I'd never seen, and the Oregon Cascades for the first time), and then cut west past Klamath into the Mt. Shasta area. There, I would make my last summit attempt for the season, having failed on Shasta one year before. It was an epic, open-road drive, including a brilliant twilight, and during which I recorded some epic, on-the-road, music-collection mixes that sadly corrupted and went bad. (Two of them survived.)
I arrived in Shasta with perfect weather, and the 5-day forecast
called for increasingly sunny skies---now that I was an entire state away from the northern Cascades.
This was the southern
Cascades, totally different. I stopped in town, got together what equipment I needed, and started towards the Shasta trailhead while listening to boatloads of Tangerine Dream for nostalgic inspiration. My sound check, this time, was brief. By now, I was so in shape that I practically flew up what had been a manhood-challenging mountain climb the year before it.
Everything was moving along innocently well, and I even got an early night's rest after concocting a flimsy tent between trees in a wind storm. I awoke at Shasta base camp around 3am and started my ascent towards the top. My first-light climb was smooth, and aside from another lone hiker, there wasn't a single soul on the mountain. Regardless of the desolation, this was proving to be a guaranteed victory. My altitude sickness at 11,000 feet wasn't even bad. I was on top of the world, figuratively; this was the exact occurrence that I needed for my spirits to start rising to the occasion again, and it seemed as though I had it in the bag.
Upon reaching eleven thousand feet, and around 1:30pm, the nightmare began. Somehow, against what the forecast "guaranteed" would be a day of sunny skies, a freezing storm rolled in out of nowhere and covered the entire top half of Mt. Shasta. I kept hiking, hoping it would lift, but two hours and twelve hundred feet later, I realized it wasn't going to. I was submerged in it.
The frustration was unthinkable. I screamed at the sky, as I sometimes do. Then I screamed at the mountain. I managed to get a signal up there and I filmed myself talking to Lisa about this on my cell. All of my respect for the mountain, and every mountain, had gone out the window in one foul swoop.
I got off the phone and filmed an even worse conniption, cursing the mountain as though it were the corporate perpetrator of some broad, social injustice. After starting my long trek back down, I cried, thinking about how close I had gotten to every summit, and how long a year felt now--just to wait for another chance. As it was, I was being evicted from my home of 10 years, who knew what else would happen in a year's time?
Honestly, I still don't know, but whatever. So, after wiping that sh-t off my face, I stopped and took out my laptop to create an extremely quick, loop-based, vocal ambient piece in honor of the storm and the attempt. My disappointment obviously affected my ability to innovate, a little too much. The music was interesting, and kind of heartfelt, but I'm not sure I would play it for anyone. Regardless, as I descended, the beauty of the furious storm clouds entranced me, and won me over after the bitterness I was previously holding on to. It was a beautiful hike.
Kickin' it off in Eureka:
I shook off even more of the disappointment after going back to the town of Shasta to get a good meal and ponder the magnificence of the project. I caught up on some emails
and contacted my friend Eli, an experimental, indie film maker I've known for years, who, with his roommate Robin, was waiting for me to visit him in the town of Eureka, on the coast.
In what was epic storm weather, at a ground level, I set out for Eureka. I even made more great on-the-road mixes---that corrupted again. ,'-( To get there, I had to drive through the Trinity National
Forest, one of the most dense and preserved rain forests in the country, and a region I hadn't visited since I was eleven years old at camp. I hadn't even seen Eureka since then. Guess I figured the surfing couldn't have been that great. Blasting through
the past and out to the ocean, I arrived in Eureka where my two friends and their alternative lifestyle greeted me ever so stylistically. I stayed for 4 days and it was an extremely reviving experience after everything I had just gone through. Eli and I even filmed ourselves making live music on the Eureka shores. Yeah yeah, we had plenty of humble mutant festivities.
Not to mention there's a short ditty he once did, which mildly summed up how I felt about my project at that point. Eli was in an especially pessimistic mood when he did this one, and just bare in mind that his budget has always been a consumer-level camcorder with some minor editing software:
But here's one that always makes me crack up:
Soon, expiring what time I had left on the trip, I reluctantly zig-zagged my way back towards So Cal, during which I experienced various dramas over the phone regarding my moving
situation. It turned out that, during the course of my trip, the pressure to move had now shifted from my aunt, to my cousin. Not only that, but the eviction turned out to be mostly her idea the whole time. This bewildered me (for some reason). I mean, everybody in my family knows that this specific cousin is nuts, but what had I done to her lately? other than problems we once had in our past, at the house? They were old conflicts that were bad at one time, but those were long since over, and I could have sworn we had been forming a close new friendship for years---somehow. At least, she acted that way. Silly me. So I called her to ask her about this and she acted very cold, repeating the motif that she was afraid of me. If that were the case, she definitely fooled me into thinking otherwise, for years, which turns out was the case.
Apparently, she had been holding a grudge from old conflicts the whole time, and was waiting for an opening to pounce and get some kind of revenge for them. I told her that this hurt, because I was trying to forget old abuses the same way that I thought she was. She wasn't. And
after I told her that what hurt the most was how, in the end, I was trying to forget the past and just love her, she coldly responded with "So what day are you going to be out by?" I definitely felt like the King Of Fools at that moment, but that's okay, because it's not the first time, or the worst time, I've been betrayed by someone. Also, it took this person showing her dishonesty for me to finally realize my own; I was living next to her for years in that house, and lying to myself about being content with it. It was a great house and work space, but I was never truly at peace sharing it with someone like her, whether or not I was trying to salvage our friendship. My cousin was, essentially, a cat lady, and sanity was a tricky thing in that environment. When I had first arrived at the house ten years ago, I was in a slump and a major life transition. My cousin and her house were supposed to be temporary, but things got worse before they got better. They did get much better, but I still managed to put myself in a trance trying hard to avoid having to relocate my entire studio. I didn't even realize how unhappy I was there, and for years this seriously effected my productivity, beyond my awareness.
So now, basically, I've moved out! :) My friend Darrin and my friend James helped me tramendously during this uneasy shift. Considering how nostalgic I get sometimes, the move was hard, and it forced me to look at huge chunks of my life that went long neglected, but just being able to look at them has allowed me the clarity and control required to start redeeming them, almost with ease. It's been a slow process over roughly a month and, somehow, the sensation that this was a blessing in disguise is overwhelming. It's so great to be away from oppressive vibes like that, and to be living among the living again. I am now renting out a killer office where my studio and my label are based, and it's part of a community of fellow film makers. Outside of
that, I'm basically living in three places at the moment: my father's house, because he's one of my best friends and has more room than he knows what to do with; Lisa's apartment, which I was practically living in already; and my friend and fellow musician Jim Goetch at his condo. Also, most likely, there will be many trips and travels I can take, for years to come, given the new mobility that technology allows with the "modern studio." It may sound funny, but it's the Gospel to me. I guess one can even say I now live EVERYWHERE, MAN. EVEN IN YOUR MIND, BRO.
But seriously, aside from a great new mobile life, I will definitely be spending most of my time buried with work in my new office/studio many months to come, so if you continue to have a hard time reaching me, that will probably be why. Pardon me in advance. ;)~
In light of all of this, I don't know if you remember, but I was actually scheduled to take one more trip this year so I can finish recording and shooting at the rest of my Southwest locations. Well, because of everything that's happened recently, I'm now a month and a half late for that. Big surprise. Although, I will be on my way practically the moment I finish these last few sentences.
I'll be gone for a month and will try to create a few rough/short blog entries while on the road. My first stop will be a week-long project I'll be doing on the Navaho Rez, where native flute player D'Von Charley and I will be taking off with some friends throughout Canyon De Chelly to produce the first full-length ambient music CD recorded throughout the canyon, from start to finish. This may even be some kind of separate short film when all
is said and done. We'll see. In the meantime, the priority will be the music.
Also, obviously I have not had time to edit or produce many video-clip segments from locations that I've done all year - spanning everywhere from the Southwest to the Sierras to the Cascade trip I just took. When I return from this next Southwest trip, hopefully I will find time to edit some of those, sooner than later, and post them online. Most of that footage is really great, and I know much of it won't make it to any big film or project, so the short films/segments will be key for that stuff to be seen at all. I'll keep you updated on their progress, from this trip into the future.
See you at the canyon rim,