Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Karma Comedian

Sometimes it takes me several blogs to get a subject out of my system. In an earlier post(two, actually)I talked about the difficult people in one's life: the first blog talked about them in the workplace and how I don't have to have the "game face" anymore- well, since I'm out of the game; and the second extended that to the world of music and gigs. 

Strangely enough(or maybe not, considering the 'artistic temperament' and all), I've had at least as many jerks over the years in bands as I have working a dayjob. One big reason why many folks start their own bands. At least you have the ability to control your personnel. If anyone's gonna be a jerk, it can be you. 

But enough of all that! Yes, people can be difficult. And no, you don't escape them- even though in retirement you always have the option to walk away. That said, these folks still have a place in our lives. An unwanted place, but a place nonetheless. A significance. And rather than decrying their presence in our lives, why not celebrate it?

Well maybe celebrate is too strong a word. Sounds almost masochistic. Still, why not note their presence in our lives? Maybe they exist to show us how not to behave in life. Maybe through their treatment of us, they're helping us repay a Karmic debt(yeah, that one is a long shot, even though I sometimes think that somewhere back there, I was a tall person who was rude to a short one). But we certainly remember them. Like the song, whose lyrics go scratch your name into the fabric of this world, they've certainly etched theirs in our psyches. 

I could see having something along the order of an Awards Dinner, for all the people who've been assholes to me in life- and by this I don't mean just an isolated derogatory remark, more that at some point they were the asshole in my life. Each of these persons would be called up to the stage to receive their very own Personal Certificate. Suitable for framing, this certificate would have their name at the top, a brief summary of their accomplishments(essentially, what won them this award)-and, yes, the word asshole to follow. And I'd want it in big and bold enough font so as to be viewable from a distance. 

The movie Pink Flamingos has a scene in which Connie and Raymond Marvel are "convicted" of assholism by Divine(the movie's protagonist)and "her" son Crackers. I suppose I'm convicting these folks- only in a much less inflammatory manner. And without the Ballmerr accent..

Really, it's more like I'm letting them go. Exorcising them from my psyche. My Awards Dinner for the Assholes in my Life is my way of releasing them. And one thing sticks with me from my road-musician days, something the bandleader used to say when he'd wax philosophical(well, besides the standard jibe to any tableful of people: that looks like the Last Supper on a liquid diet!): that we are all the bane of someone's existence. 

So I might just have an Awards Dinner or two to attend myself. As an honoree..


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Difficult People- no mas!!

You never completely escape them. No matter how scrupulously you plan your life so as to edge out the possible incendiaries, one is going to slip in through the door, under the door, through the window- or perhaps through a host body ala the Body Snatchers! One damn way or another, you'll have a difficult individual on your hands. Someone who irks you, who raises your blood pressure along with your ire. Somebody who just plain makes your life--well, difficult.

I just left my job in the middle of this year, end of June. It was for a social service agency taking care of indigent folks(and thus fraught with difficult personalities!)22 years in that job, which I guess was all I could take. Naturally, many of these problem folks were clients, but almost as often they were co-workers or "superiors". Well, it was a big room full of people. Egos. Issues. And as you keep adding people to the equation, sooner or later you get at least one who's an asshole. It's just gonna happen.

This is of course true in any aggravation--er, excuse me, aggregation of people, any gathering, whether it's an office unit or a musical ensemble or the United Paperhangers Coalition. Having never hung paper(let alone on a wide-scale group level), I can't speak for this last bunch, but I have worked in offices and played in bands. So I do have quite a reservoir of experience in both these settings. And as well as some fine folks I've worked alongside in the office, and played alongside on a stage, I've had to suffer with more than a few stinkers. 

At the office, it's just something you have to deal with. Find a way to make your relationship with that person a workable one. You don't really have a choice, as long as you need that job. One or both of you has to bend a little bit. Looking back on all those years, I wonder how the hell I survived them. But then I saw people in work relationships far more acrimonious than anything I had to endure. 

In a band you have considerably more leeway of course, unless that band is your primary income(and/or you're traveling with them!). I did have that misfortune once on the road, back in the '80s. I could put up a whole 'nother blog about this person's hubris and general brattiness, but suffice it to say, another of life's difficult individuals. Fortunately, just as things were at their darkest, he left for another band(just short of being canned from ours- the bandleader had even asked me to play bass so we could get rid of him!), which at least gave us something to celebrate.

 But with that, another of Life's sterner lessons: it could always be worse! His replacement was a guy from the urban jungles of Philadelphia who couldn't cope with the wide-open spaces of New Mexico. This caused him to drink mass quantities of alcohol to settle those jangled nerves- which unfortunately brought out a contentious alter-ego, making him mouthy and belligerent. One such verbal altercation with the bandleader became his going-away party, and our new bass player was sent home, practically Fedexed back to Philly.

Seems like we went through that business with a singer as well. Great-looking, and with a balcony you could do Shakespeare from, but a mouth that would embarrass a steveadore, at least when it came to her demands in the band. Fortunately for me, being a sideman, not my headache--at least not directly.  Traditionally the most difficult of all musicians: the lead vocalist. 

Fortunately this time, life didn't throw us another zinger in her replacement. We got a very nice lady, who unfortunately was only with us for a brief while. Not as photogenic as her petulant predecessor(and thus not as good a sell for the band)but refreshingly bereft of the odious qualities we'd had to endure in the one she replaced. Down to earth, unassuming, good-natured. Like I said, a nice lady. And to further recommend her, she could do a slow blues that'd bring down the house every time!

So I had to put up with an asshole bass player(well two actually) and an asshole singer for awhile in there, since I lived with them. We were all out there on the road. No choice in the matter. Like in the office, you just find a way to make it work. 

At this point in life though, retired from the workforce and with enough shekels to pay the bills, I don't need to put in my time in some office. Not anymore. Of the people I worked with, I can just see the ones I like! And though I love music, I don't need to make money at it(though a few extra bucks never hurt anybody). So I don't have to put up with toxic personalities like that bass player and singer from the road. Or anybody else, for that matter!

 You're always going to have difficult people. I just had one on a gig this past week. The big difference is that now I can just walk away. If I don't want to work with that person again, I don't have to. I do think it's a good thing to be able to work with a difficult individual, as far as one's general adaptability in life--but what for if you don't have to?!

No, I feel I've paid those dues. From here on in, as much as is humanly possible, I only play gigs and associate with happy(or at least pleasant)folks. Those who at least leave their egos and agendas at home. And I promise to leave mine at home too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ahh SHIT!!

It's here. And this is just the beginning. Temperatures even colder than the frigid teens we've been experiencing, as well as any number of snowfalls. 

Yeah I know. Bitch bitch bitch. I'm not a fan of cold weather and never have been, but there are two saving graces of Winter- at least from my current perspective. 

For one thing, it feels so good when it's over. And it always ends, at least in this part of the world(a friend from Russia told me that where she lived, they had Winter for seven months out of the year!). I love the Spring, and perhaps even more, the anticipation of Spring. Personally I could cut Winter out of the equation entirely (just clip around the edges and sink that sucker!), but at least its harshness makes you appreciate "good" weather. 

Okay, secondly, I don't have to get out in it. Except for buying groceries, gassing up the vehicle, and playing a few gigs, there's no reason for me to go anywhere or do anything. If it's a freezing cold morning and I have enough food in the house I don't have to trudge out and start the vehicle and scrape the ice off the windshield(at least the sides and back), and then go off to work. 

As you can see from the picture, we're not in the dead of Winter just yet. I guess this is another thing to appreciate. But when we are, I'm sure I'll thank my lucky stars on those nasty-cold mornings when I can just remain in the warmth of house and hame. Maybe even listen to some Christmas music. I still loathe Winter, but I do like Christmas songs. Just as long as they're not sung by Chipmunks.


And Good Riddance!

One of the nice things about retirement(or, okay, pre-retirement if you wanna get technical, but bottom line--no pun intended--my ass ain't there anymore!)is that for the most part you don't have to deal with people you don't want to deal with. 

In the world of work, along with the handful of helpful co-working folks who help you get through the mess(and you them), you have many relationships in which you're forced to be nice(or at least civil)to people you can't stand or at least would happily ignore. 

 This is, granted, a necessary skill, and has gotten my sometimes beleaguered ass through about 25 years of dayjob. It's just nice, at this point in life(albeit the Autumn of said life!) to not have to go through those duplicities. 

At the time, you just do what you gotta do, which often means holding your tongue(under lock and key if you have to!). One co-worker deliberately avoided gatherings where alcohol was served, due to its tongue-loosening properties and the increasing likelihood of his telling someone what a horse's patootie he thought they really were.

And as with any company or agency, we had our share of 'em. I miss the nutrients in my working life, like the fellow who eschewed office parties, but I sure don't miss the toxins. Not having to deal with them is a liberty I guess I didn't appreciate until now. I suppose there are some things that you just carry around with you for so long that it just takes awhile to realize your load has lightened. 

Fancy that.