Sunday December 24, 2006



"...So this is Christmas..."

Just like every other day since I've been home, I spent most of my time running errands. I did get one miraculous break, though. My old high school buddy Scott was in town. He's now a fine artist based in Chicago (you may know his work from the C'mon, Accept Your Joy album cover). We stay in touch but we haven't seen each other in years and years. To top it off, Amanda and I have never really met his wife Ronit. We had decided that we would find time to get together and then we would go surprise our other local friends. Well, we didn't quite pull it all off but at least we got to see each other. The plan was that we were going to go grab some lunch and then show up en masse to see other friends. We managed to get together for lunch (at possibly the only appropriate place in Kershaw County for such a thing on a holiday Sunday morning) but the service was so slow that by the time we got done, we had to go on back to our families. We all looked at our schedules to try to find other times over the next several days. Every time we thought we found a few minutes, we remembered something. We felt bad but knew there was no way to make it happen in '06.

Still, the short and sweet amount of time the four of us had together was very important to me. It was probably the highlight of my trip, if truth be told. I so wish we had more time. We need to make some more. Scott and I have always been too similar in many ways. There's a link there that's different than with other friends. I'm not saying it's stronger or deeper or anything, I'm just saying that it's unique. I knew it would be great to spend some time but I didn't realize just how connected I would feel right from the start. I thought it would be awkward after so much time but it didn't feel that way at all. Of course, it was hard to keep Scott and me from reminiscing about all the absurd things from high school (Trust me, you wouldn't believe our stories happened. If you wrote them in a script, people would say they were unbelievable.) The best part was that Scott actually remembered things I didn't. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about Rock Steady Roosevelt. I had even let The Free Republic Of Arangasangalor slip my mind. In a way, I felt bad just reminiscing when we had so much time to catch up on. We never did delve too much into what's happened in all the meantime. I did put Ronit on the spot for the tale of how she got tangled up with Scott, which she obliged. My favorite part was once, in the middle, when Scott and I started going backwards again, she stopped us, told us basically to shut up and reminded us "I'm telling my story now." I was impressed. Amanda got a few good ones in, too. She was (ahem) there for part of the time back in that day. You know, it's too bad that this couple lives the better part of 1000 miles away. I've got a feeling we'd be seeing a lot more of each other if we were around.

Maybe some day...

From there, Amanda and I had to head back to see Grandma. What a sad place that rehab facility is. It also doubles as a nursing home and oof! It's not a place you wanna spend much time in. I hate that she has to be here during the holidays.

In the evening, we headed back for Amanda's family Christmas. There was nothing particularly special or unique about this one but maybe, in a way, that's the best kind of all. It was so natural that it just was. When I look back on the terrifying first few holidays I spent around there, it's hard not to smile.

Whatever you believe, merry Christmas to you. In the holiday spirit, I'd like you check out this touching tale of the day two Jews and two Catholics teamed up to save this holiday. Just click here.





Saturday December 23, 2006











Today, Amanda and I got to do something we hardly get to do anymore...Christmas with my Mom's family out in the country. You know where Cusack's Crossroads is? If not, let me clue you in. It's as close to the middle of nowhere (without being far from somewhere) as I've ever been.

I was glad to be there. And the day was beautiful. It was so warm and nice. I wished Amanda could walk so we could go checking out the fields with our nieces and nephew (like the old days) but we couldn't this time. My Aunt cooked up some special food for me and I ate like a pig (while avoiding the whole pig in the corner). I never eat that much early in the day. It was strange to me when I remembered that one week before I was eating an amazing lunch while looking out over the San Francisco Bay. That was one of the best lunches I've had in years but you know what? If I had to choose, I'd choose this food any day. As an added bonus, my Aunt slipped me half of a special cake that only she (and a few of her friends) make properly. Ooooooohhhhh...I know what I'll be capping every meal with for the next few days.

When we left there, Amanda and I took a plate that my Mom fixed back to Grandma. She ate well that night, too.

It's good to be home.





Friday December 22, 2006



Ah, so much for the glamorous rock and roll life I usually lead (snicker, snicker).

Today I spent my time driving back and forth in the cold South Carolina rain from Amanda's parents to hospital to Grandma's to rehab to Grandma's to Amanda's parents and on and on.

I first transferred my Grandmother from the hospital to rehab facilities (totally solo I might add), then took off to grab her clothes, TV and whatever else I could think of. The woman at the rehab facility warned me that they probably wouldn't be able to get the TV hooked up until next week since it was Christmas and everybody left early. How silly is that? "I can hook it up myself, then. Don't worry about it." She looked surprised and asked if I should really be doing that. I responded, "Is cable going into that wall?" Yes. "Well, then I can get it out of that wall and into that box. It's not that hard to plug a coaxial from that outlet to the back of the TV." I've never seen someone more impressed over something so non-impressive. C'mon, can't anyone plug in a cable? Weird. I also spent time writing names on clothes (rehab policy), putting Christmas cards on bulletin boards and other exceptionally fun things..

In the afternoon, Amanda went back out with me to visit. Luckily, she decided to check on whether or not the house payment had been made. Grandma was convinced that (ahem) my aunt had paid it. I saw no record of it. Amanda was convinced that it wasn't paid. I said something like, "Even they wouldn't screw this up, would they?" Amanda and I went to the bank an hour before closing time (just in case) and asked. Nope, it hadn't been paid. I can't believe 'em. I'm telling you. We transferred the money and got the payment in with minutes to spare. Then I went back to Amanda's parents' and had Grandma's phone temporarily moved to where she is.

an that my aventur (sic)



Thursday December 21, 2006





Well, I got lots done today but not enough to show to the non-me eye. I did get a chunk of this diary done along with all of my Pollstar stuff for the rest of '06.

Amanda and I decided to head on back to SC early and go home tonight instead of tomorrow. It looks like I'll be transferring Grandma from the hospital to the temporary rehab facility alone. That's okay. I'll be glad to be able to do it for her.

Happy Winter Solstice, all you pagans!



Wednesday December 20, 2006




I talked to my sister Missy for a while on the phone today. She let me know how certain other people have been bad mouthing me in a certain hospital room. I'm not surprised and I wouldn't expect less from people with such guilty consciences. We all know that I did more from 3,000 miles away than they did within arm's reach. What does that say? Still, I'm not going to go on and on repeating myself. I know who and what they are and don't have the desire to go on about it (except in cases like this where it's thrown in my face). I just wanted to say that so that I can say this one more time.

This is to those same "family" members:

If you're gonna talk about me, at least have the guts to say it to me. Anything else is pathetic. You know where I am. Call me or email me if you have something that needs to be said. I'm here and happy to talk whenever. I was told NOT to contact you and I will respect that. You're welcome to call me anytime. I believe communication is healing and important. You clearly believe in trying to stifle anything that's not...well, you. And that goes for all of you. Running your mouth incessantly only brings what you say around on yourself. To me, all I see is the voice of guilt and neglect coming from you. So yeah - go on and desert again. Just know that all of those things that you're dissatisfied with (legal and otherwise) are the way they are because of the things that you've done (and not done). You can make amends (like you would) but you can't rewrite your history (like you constantly try). We know who you really are.

Enough of that. I keep trying not to delve into it and feel like they're trying to pull me back into the mud. That's as deep as I'm going.

Back to the day.

As for me, I'm feeling overwhelmed with all that's at hand but I'm also oddly energized. When I get everything back in line, I'll be ready and able to steamroll everything.

Oh yeah - we also got some press in today's Flagpole. It's not exactly positive either. This may be the first real criticism we've gotten and it ain't even about the band, the music or us. It's about one technique we're employing and that some of you have been a part of due to this site. Check it out.

Gordon's comments from Flagpole:

"Well, That's One Way To Do It:

Local artist and photographer Chris McKay sent out an email about a month ago to a bunch of people directing them to listen to a huge amount of songs located on his website. The purpose of this was for people to vote on which songs they liked the best and the songs that got the most votes would wind up on the album. Well, the process is now over and 11 songs have been chosen and will appear on Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings ' next album Satisfactionista in 2007. Although I am certain that McKay did this in order to appeal to fans and, to be certain, had nothing but the best intentions, I can't help but cringe at the very idea that a band would fashion an album according to the way people voted. I mean, we're supposed to be talking about art here, not some new bacon-and-chicken sandwich, right? I've never felt that someone should treat their songs like menu items. But hey, they're McKay's kids, and I guess he can do what he wants with 'em."

And here's my response that I emailed to him!

"I appreciate what you're saying and I, too, would've thought
the same thing just a little while ago. I know just how offensive it can be to do something so utterly "product like" with our "art". Believe me, I've heard a few people around town starting sentences with "How could you do that?"


With our first album, we were able to put together a cohesive album of the songs we knew and were most comfortable with doing without much problem. (Un?) Fortunately, we've written A LOT since we formed and resurrected some older ones that we like and have been going over well.

So what are we to do?

We had close to 40 songs that the three core members believed strongly in but when we tried to whittle it down, nothing made sense. I came up with the idea to do this because we believed in all of the songs strongly enough that whatever came out of the polling, we knew it would be cool. I was a bit nervous about it but you know what? It worked beautifully! As is turned out, the songs that were chosen fit together like a puzzle. The rockers are rockier, the ballads are balladier and the quirky ones are quirkier.

When I saw the final list, I was shocked at how solid a collection it made and pleased that the results were not nearly as obvious as I thought they'd be. One of my personal favorites didn't make the cut and that happened for each of the other guys too. But we all saw how well the top list fit together and to be totally blunt about it, we would've never chosen as well ourselves. If I thought we could do a better job, I would've ditched the results.

This is the right thing to do for us now. Besides, we're a POP band at
heart. What better way to achieve POPness than by doing it just this way. The most POPular ones make the cut. It also helps us understand what we do best and how to do it better.

Sorry that you don't like the way the sandwich is being prepared but I
believe you'll be shocked and pleased by just how tasty this thing's gonna be!


Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all of that stuff."



Tuesday December 19, 2006








Well, I'm a little tired today due to the time change but not so bad considering. Of course, I'm trying to catch up with all of my emails and such which took up most of my day. I'm also taking care of as much as I can for my Grandmother via the phone.

Her head's clearing now from the haze of being overmedicated. She sounded brighter and more together than I've heard her in a long time. She's a bit over emotional but at least she's thankful for all I was able to get done from 3,000 miles away.

I'm also thankful that members of my family have been checking up on her. I know Missy was there tonight. I'll be home for Christmas in a few days. It's been hard not being there. Normally, I'd probably leave and go on back since I have no pressing work. But I can't leave Amanda now. She went and got crutches today. It's such a shame that a person as active as her can't get something from nothing that can bring her down like that.

We'll do our best and not worry about anything beyond that.



Monday December 18, 2006

This is what I saw from the plane window for a huge portion of the trip. This is somewhere over the Rockies. For some reason, Amanda found it amusing (after a couple of hours of this) when I said "You know what? There's a lot of snow in the world." It wasn't meant to be funny. There is, baby.



And it's time to say goodbye to California. Things feel different than they did on the way. I can't really put it into words. This trip somehow felt like an ending and a new beginning. I guess we'll see if it's anything more than a feeling.

The trip to the airport wasn't all that pleasant. By now, Amanda was in so much pain that she couldn't walk well. I can't express to you how hard it was for me to see her being pushed around the airport in a wheelchair. We didn't have a choice.

It was also hard for me to make the trip back to the airport. This time wasn't about the fear of flying as much as the sadness at leaving. I didn't want to leave yet. We didn't get the chance to experience the city and appreciate it in full. We did our best. I guess we'll have to come back sooner this time. On the way out of town, I took another good look at Candlestick Park and thought about The Beatles doing their last ever concert there back in '66. I saw the exit to the Cow Palace and thought about The WHO recruiting a drummer from the audience back in '73 when Keith Moon passed out from taking too many animal tranquilizers. I also thought about how beautiful and fragile this city on a fault line is. It's an amazing place and easily the most beautiful and varied city in which I've ever spent time.

In the words of Zappa, "How I love you, how I love you, how I love you, how I love you, Frisco (Gee, my hair is getting good in the back)."

You can leave out the last part but I think it needs to stay in.

When we got to the airport, I checked in by calling my Grandmother at the hospital. Again, I got another ugly surprise. She was more or less out of it. So much so, in fact, that at first I was convinced she'd had a stroke. I talked to the charge nurse and asked what was going on. At first, she seemed to put it on Grandma so I asked her point black, "What medications did you give her?" The reply: AMBIEN! Okay, now look. I don't mean to dog medication on here but this again? I know several people who've taken it recreationally and one (Amanda) who had it prescribed to them. All it did to any of 'em was get 'em high. That's what it did to Grandma, too. She was whacked out. In a way I was relieved that it wasn't more serious but it was frustrating nonetheless. "Did you give her anything else?" "Yes sir. We gave her two Xanax." Yep. I couldn't believe it! "So you gave a 76 year old woman with pneumonia who hadn't been eating right for a couple of weeks 2 (full gram) Xanax and an Ambien and you're surprised at how strange she's acting?" I told them to please remove her from the Ambien and add it to the list of medications she can't have. The woman agreed. I also asked if they could lower the dosage of Xanax, which they also did. By the evening, they had cut her down to .25 of Xanax twice a day which effectively cut her dose in half. By the time I landed in Atlanta in the early evening, she was half-way back to reality. She still wasn't crystal clear on which of the things she saw were real vs. projected by her high but she was at least back on the planet!

Speaking of the trip, this one was also perfectly fine even if it wasn't as good as last time. The movie (The Illusionist) didn't interest me. That, in an of itself, made things boring. Even though the flight was nearly an hour shorter, it felt much longer. But to be honest, I wasn't really nervous about flying for the first time ever. In fact, at one point I said to Amanda, "So where are we flying next?" I wasn't kidding. It'll be good to knock this fear out.

I always forget just how different the South is from anywhere else. I can't tell you how at home I felt when we landed and went back to the food court at the airport. Just to be able to order fried chicken with gravy and sweet tea made me giddy. I know that stuff's bad for me but let's face it, I'm a lil' redneck boy underneath it all. And to hear the thick accent from the guy serving it made it all the better. All I could say was, "Man, it's good to be back in the South." The waiter responded with a smile, "It's good to have you back, sir." Cool.

I got home in time to check emails. We had a second offer for a show on December 22. I had to turn them both down as we're obviously not ready now. When we come back out, I believe we will be significantly different from the old model. The set list will certainly be massively altered. I also had an offer for a potential publishing deal. As always, nothing'll probably come from it, but it's cool that I'm in mind!

Click here for last week with Marty & Grace, San Francisco and the legacy of Frank Zappa.