Stories from the grind.. or something.. Volume I

This first shot is of myself and two of my favorite people, Kyle McCarthy and Tyler Manzo, on the set of the Don't Tread on Me music video.  And by the set, I mean my friend's mom's place.  I've collaborated with Tyler, on the far right, since the dawn of man; he put together the album cover for Toothpick, the single artwork for Friction, Hurricane, etc, etc; you'll see more from us.  Our collaborations normally begin with me explaining some ridiculous idea and then him excitedly agreeing and then we both riff on each others' weird ideas until we're both nodding and agreeing so much that we start to vibrate and puncture a hole in the universe.  Kyle, in the middle, isn't worth writing anything about because he's just kind of terrible (haha, come out to the city soon, man).

We were filming until midnight - 1AM or so for this one.  Jeanne, my friend's mom, was sleeping in the other room as Kyle held the fake 9MM and roamed the house's hallways on the prowl for Victoria (actress who played the lead), while my friend's dog, a labrador retriever named Blue, kept wandering into frame.  Victoria, pot in hand, would be creeping up behind Kyle real serious-like, and then I'd see Blue watching nonchalantly from under the table.

- Kai



For everyone checking in for a new blog post tonight, I apologize, I have nothing for you.  Though I'd love to have the time to write something new for you every Sunday, I, simply, do not; and I don't ever want to give you something that I haven't had time to perfect.  I'll continue to make entries, they just won't be victim to schedule.  

Every song on the album has been recorded.  I'm halfway through the final draft of my book.  We're getting there.  Have an incredible week.  

Goodnight, and good luck.

- Kai

Charlie Kaufman & The Meaning of Life

Just a few minutes ago I finished watching the movie Adaptation written by Charlie Kaufman, one of my favorite films; it’s caused me to feel self-reflective, so if you don’t want to wade in a pool of existentialism then I recommend you stop reading this now and, instead, play croquet or draw sloths on a napkin or whatever else you feel like doing.

The movie got me thinking about memory, and how we forget most of our lives.  What did you do three months ago on Tuesday, March 10th?  Do you remember?  I’d assume not.  What were you thinking about last Wednesday at 2:15?  You, again, probably don’t remember.  You probably remember a couple of moments from a few conversations, maybe you remember generally how you felt, you have a few snapshots, but, the texture belonging to the day-to-day minutia has been let go of; you have some broad strokes, but you don’t remember the entire painting.  And since most of life consists of minutia, of small decisions and experiences between big memorable events, most of your life isn’t remembered.  Once something is experienced, time pushes you forward, and like time itself is armed with a big pink eraser, it starts to rub away all of your small moments, like we’re Indiana Jones, running across an old decrepit bridge, and as we lift each foot to take another step, the bridge crumbles behind us.  Experiences, it seems, are mostly borrowed; reduced to nothing; inevitably eroded by ticking clocks and crawling sundials; and if life is celebrated as a conglomeration of experiences, a tapestry of cherished memory, but most of those experiences are forgotten, and most of those memories dissolve, then this view of a rich life being one filled with unique experiences is baseless.  Some people, in their old age, completely forget their lives.  They no longer can pull meaning from past experiences because they don’t remember any.  Some people are disabled, paralyzed, or otherwise impaired so have very limited life experiences.  So, are these lives, then, without value? 

I don’t think so.  I don’t think the point of life is to collect experiences like they’re trading-cards and display them in photographs and post them like trophies for everyone to see.  If memory was so important, our minds would do a better job of keeping them around.  And, I’m aware, this point that I’m about to make is tired, but I think, rather, life is more about how you feel right now.  Your current attitude, world-view, disposition, character traits – these combine to form the sculpture that is your soul, and it is our job to do the sculpting.  The goal shouldn't be to merely collect experiences, because most will be forgotten, but, instead, to become the best version of ourselves, in the present moment, regardless of what we are experiencing.  To be, even in prison, even without vacations and new cars and unique or expensive meals, satisfied; to be content; to be peaceful – that, to me, is the goal.  I view that person who, at the end of his or her life, who has developed an unwavering satisfaction with his or her existence, I view them as having won.  There are so many messages spewed about the importance of diverse life experiences, but, there are many who cannot afford to experience much – and I believe they have the same shot at happiness as anyone else, because that isn't the route to fulfillment.  Fulfillment is something curated in the mind, in the present moment, a process of sharpening ones perspective, so that we can, eventually, be absolutely satisfied with anything life throws at us.  In the end, if there were to be some kind of divine judgment on our success or failure in life as a whole – I think it would be based on who we became, the person that we carved from whatever we were given, how we, in the end, decided to view the world and our place in it.

The man on the mountaintop is overwhelmed with the beauty of existence; but the man who feels the same, and who has lived a very small life - his accomplishment, to me, is incomparably profound.  And about the old man or woman who has forgotten everything, but still decides to smile, who has manifested a relentless, unreasonable, illogical joy – they are as close to perfect as we can get, I think.  Even when facing the abyss, they are satisfied.  Without reason, they are satisfied.

Anyway.  I don't have time to edit this thing as much as I'd like.  We're going out for my dad's birthday dinner right now, and I have to go.  But, I just hope, whoever you are, whatever your life circumstances may be, I hope you know that you can be happy, you can be satisfied.  

Goodnight.  And good luck.

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this [I love hearing from you]:  Do you compare your life experiences to others'?  Are you satisfied with your life?  Why?  Why not?

If you missed last week's blog.  Read it here.


Here we go.  This is going to be another tough week for me - as far as writing this blog is concerned.  I just got out of the car.  My family and I just drove six hours from Oregon.  I went to my cousin’s wedding.  So, instead of trying to extract some kind of life lesson from my experiences, I’m just going to tell you an unrelated story.  Maybe there will be something that can be extracted, I don’t know.

When I was younger, I used to drink a lot, too much.  My family's history is littered with alcoholics.  I started down that road early.  I had my first drink when I was 14, and when I was caught for it, and subsequently grounded, I would drink in the living room once my parents went to sleep.  Couple years go by and I’m going to parties as often as I can.  At first, when my friends and I were 16, it was friends’ houses; their parents were on vacation, their older brother got a place, whatever.  But when we got older, when those friends moved off to college, our parties’ venues took a strange turn.  The house would be owned by a shadowy roommate, someone would break into a foreclosed home, we’d find an alley somewhere - stuff like that.  One of those places was a house right down the street from my parents’ place.  I’d walk there, meet up with my friends, drink until I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror, then go home.  The man who owned the house was about ten years older than us.  He’d take us to Safeway.  He’d tell us to fill up the cart with whatever alcohol we wanted.  He was a military guy, and I knew his behavior was odd, but, hey, free alcohol.  He was a big guy, 6’ 4”, 240 lbs.  He’d socialize here and there, but, overall, he was pretty soft-spoken.

One day.  He was more quiet than usual.  He bought us more alcohol than he ever had before, then went straight to his room when we got back from Safeway.  His brother was there – and his brother wasn’t ever there.  Something felt different.  I heard rumors at the party.  Someone told me that his ex-wife had coached his daughter to tell the police that he had molested her, so he’d never be able to see her again.  There was this feeling I had, like we were in the eye of a hurricane.  I was in the living room.  Drinking.  I hated the taste of alcohol, but I loved how it made me feel.  It was a Budweiser, I think.  I was wasted.  Then I saw the guy’s brother backing out from the hall that lead to the master bedroom.  His palms were up.  He was smaller.  His hair ran to his shoulders.  Then the big guy came out.  His fists were tight, hunched shoulders.  His eyes were dead.  His brother was saying something, trying to convince him of something, pleading, I don’t remember exactly what.  Then the big guy threw his fist into his brother’s face.  Once, then twice.  I remember the brother's voice.  He was a grown man, but in that moment, he sounded like he was thirteen.  His voice cracked; he sounded so desperate, like he had no idea why this was happening.  The big guy threw him against the wall.  The brother broke through the sheetrock.  I remember the sound of the guy’s fist hitting his brother’s face, that wet sound of flesh to flesh, and the blood pouring from his brow, it was so dark, and how, before each punch, the brother would lift his hands to try to stop him, but he just couldn’t.  The fists would just slip through his hands.  Then the guy, the homeowner, stopped on his own.  He started crying.  The neighbors had heard the brother screaming, so the cops came.  They lined us up out front, on the curb.  I remember looking to my friends, and instead of us worrying about the guy, it was more like, “Man, I guess we’ll have to find somewhere else to go.  Text some people.”  Ugly, I know

Is there something to take from that story?  I’m not sure.  Maybe not.  Like I said, I’m not in a space to comb through it and find something.  I have this vision, though, now that I’m at the end of this.  People have storms in ‘em.  Hurricanes.  Maybe that’s the point.  I feel like people don’t share their problems until its too late.  They’ve got these black clouds in their minds, and they’re hoping someone will hear the thunder, and when no one does, the storm bleeds out in other ways. 

I know that was dark, but life can be dark.  You can’t ignore that.  You’ve got to look at it.  You’ve got to face that stuff.  Or else it grows, turns into a monster.  Don’t let that happen.  Talk to someone.  Whatever you have in your mind, share it, even if its embarrassing; that's so vital.

Anyway.  Listen to people, and find someone you can trust to do the same for you.  Goodnight and good luck.

- Kai

Do you have anything you’d like to share with me?  A story you haven’t told many people?  Something you saw?  Something you’ve felt?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

If you missed last week’s blog, read it here.

The Independent Musician

People ask me, sometimes, how I keep going.  I’ve never had a big break.  I have waded in obscurity, as a musician, essentially, forever.  I’ve locked myself away to work on sounds that I hoped would somehow change the world.  And with each day and each month spent on that music, my hope would grow; I’d become so sure that whatever project I was involved with would bring me to a broader audience, I could so vividly imagine it – that I felt as though I was almost there.  Then I would release the project, and find that those feelings were mirages, stuff of my imagination.  The music just wouldn’t grab on like I’d hoped; then, subsequently, I’d make the plunge into disappointment.  I’d question myself as a creator, as a musician, as a writer, as a human being.  I’d feel like a fraud.  I’d stare at the ceiling and wonder why I spent so much time on something that gave me so little.  Then a week or so would pass, and the cycle would begin again; the fire of hope would start to fester.  And like this, a metronome, for years, I have been rocking back and forth between hope and discouragement, between chasing the dream and hating it.  And that is the plight of the artist who reaches for success.  It is an exhausting emotional rollercoaster.  It is a torturous and constant plucking and tearing of the heartstrings.  It is chasing shadows in a dark room with a blindfold and a stick.  And sometimes, here and there, someone will grab me by the shoulder and ask and say,  “Why are you doing this?  You don’t have to do this anymore.” 

And to them, I always say – yes – yes, in fact, I do.  There is an uncontrollable firestorm of want that is always churning within me; a want for success, a want for a larger audience, a want to affect more people, a want for a life earned by and lived through creativity, and, of course, a want to, simply, create.  It is a disease of dissatisfaction; a drive that is more compulsive than noble.  So when someone asks how I keep going, an image is brought to mind of a man tied to a raging bull by his ankle, and how funny it would be to ask him, the dragging man, the same question. 

Ambition can be such an ugly thing, I know, and want can be such an ugly thing.  But, I believe, if you aim them in the right direction, they could reach, together, immeasurable heights and solve and achieve the impossible.  So, if you are, too, being dragged by that bull of ambition - be thankful.  Some people are tied to stones and swaying on the bottom of an ocean of indifference, in a stasis of lethargy, dreading the boredom of their tomorrows, and regretting the sameness of their yesterdays.

If you have a fire within you, stoke it.  And if you don’t have one, explore until you find your spark.  Humans can be fantastically inventive, passionate things if only they find their right direction.

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this:  What are you passionate about?  What dreams pull you through life?  What sets your soul on fire?

If you missed last week's blog.  Read it here.