Jan 5, 2008
Jan 11, 2008
More wildlife stuff. One of the coolest things about Sydney, besides the beautiful skyline and great parks, is that every night, hundreds of thousands of Bloodsucking Raven-sized Fruit Bats come pouring out of the botanical gardens to take over the city for the night. It’s a site to behold. In my younger years I’m sure I would have designed a plan to catch one, but I passed on it and stuck to drinking bags of cheap wine. Speaking of which, the booze over here is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. I think the government makes all its money off of alcohol taxes. A six pack of mediocre beer runs about $14, which means about $13 US. If you’re up on your cheap booze, you can get a 30 pack of Beast Lite for that much in Charlotte. So the backpackers all drink this cheap boxed wine they call “goon.” It’s a great name when you think about it. I’ve had some so far, and it’s palatable, although maybe only cause I’m in backpacking mode. Actually, on saturday night when I played on the balcony, some Danish guys introduced me to a game called “slap the goon.” When the box is almost empty you take out the shiny plastic bladder that the wine is in and drink it from there. If you hold it up, you can give it a fantastically satisfying slap that echoes throughout the hostel and eventually wakes everyone up. We wrote a song called “Slap the goon,” with me freestyle rapping and playing guitar and the two guys slapping the goon in time. This went on for 4 minutes or so until people came and complained (rightfully so), but we got in on video. If I can track that video down I’ll absolutely link you to it. It was solid gold.
Anyway, now I’m in coffs harbor, in a kind of dingy hostel. The beach is beautiful though, and I’m only here two nights until I head up to Byron Bay for a week. Hope all is well with all of you.
Slap the Goon,
Jan 16, 2008
Alright, so here I am in the middle of a week-long stay at Byron Bay, where they play all day and jump in the frey, in the old fashioned way this place is gay. Ok, that’s enough. Sorry.So yeah, Byron Bay is great and I’m staying at this hostile right on the beach. My senior year in college there was a great social scene at the apartment building I lived in, in large part because it was horseshoe shaped with all the apartment fronts facing inwards towards a common area in the middle. This one is setup the same way, so the social scene is similarly good. I’ll move to a bullet point for some anecdotes, cause a more traditional writing structure feels challenging at this point (which is telling of what I’ve been up to the last few nights).- Music Update: Two days ago I played a bit for my roommates, and they had me come out to the common area around 4:30 to play, and a ton of people gathered around and I ended up giving an impromptu show to maybe 25 or 30 people for nearly two hours. It was absolutely great, cause I didn’t have to do any self-promotion, which I’d have you know is the least fun aspect of being a performer. It’s the absolute worst (“hey everyone, come see how awesome I am!”). It’s sooo much better when you have other people do it for you, which is what happened here. Anyway, people loved it and I sold another 8 or 9 CD’s, and now everyone knows who I am, which is good too. On request I came out and played for a bit yesterday too, but there weren’t as many people around. When I first got started playing guitar, I was so excited about it that I blundered with the social aspect of it (which is something you have to learn just like an instrument) and pushed my playing on people too much, so I try to be wary of being guy who never shuts up on the guitar. So now I’ve been usually waiting until I have a strong request. On the other hand, one thing I’ve been working on this trip is conquering my fear of playing in potentially scary situations. In situations like an airport terminal, on a train, or waiting somewhere on the street, I often would love to play, but don’t at all, or just play and don’t sing, but that’s something I’ve been pushing through. The Martin Sexton song, “Black Sheep,” has been an inspiration to me. There’s a line I’ve always loved near the end when he’s really belting it out where he goes, “some people think I’m crazy, singing out loud like I do here on the street, but when I got a song, I’ll sing it out loud, and if you don’t like that my friend, I’m gonna say bye . . . ” So when I’m feeling shy (but I do really want to play) I think of that line and it gives me a little courage.- Note: this paragraph deals with marijuana use.I bet zero of you stopped reading because of that. Anyway, I had a little personal victory the other day. One of the bad side effects of marijuana is that it can make you paranoid, even around people you like. If you make an effort to fight through that and connect anyway, you can overcome it. I’ve made a point of trying to break through that if I’ve gotten high with a group of people, and a good way to do that is to agree to all be on the same “team.” So anyway, I took this tour bus to a place called “Nimbin” which is an intentional community an hour outside of byron bay where Pot is de facto legal. By the way, the drive up there was BEAUTIFUL. There’s been a ton of rain, and everything was unbelievably green. We drove through old cattle farm areas, in and out of jungle valleys, and to some breathtaking vistas. The tour guide was fun too. Anyway, we stopped in Nimbin, and most peolpe bought Pot Cookies. They really work, so about an hour after eating them on the bus ride home, everyone was getting pretty high. We stopped in a little jungle park to have a BBQ, and all the different people were sort of split off in their groups, mostly by nationality. I was the only American and the only solo traveler, so I made a point of getting a bunch of people to start chatting it up. I also really pushed the “same team” philosophy, that most people relate to, cause when you’re high and being paranoid you know that you could be having a great time laughing it up with people, but often it’s too much to take that first step, so when I talk about the “team” (some people call it the bubble) people usually laugh and are down with it. The whole effort felt a lot like being a camp counselor on the first day of camp, and getting the kids out of their shell. Anyway, it was a big success and everyone bonded and had a good time. Oh, we also went down to a waterfall where you could jump off the rocks into the rain-swollen river, and that was a blast too.- I’ve met a lot of people from Melbourne, and they (and the irish) seem to be the groups of people who like my music best. (I could write another paragraph about Irish people, but I won’t. They love to have fun, they love to sing, and they’re generally awesome, to make a broad generalization). This is fortuitous because I plan on spending at least two weeks in Melbourne and getting into the music scene, which is supposedly really good down there. Now I have a ton of people whose contact info I’ve gotten, and they’re all fired up to come out and support me when I play.- It’s raining a lot here, but I’m not letting it get me down. It’s usually just short bursts of rain anyway, and the nice thing is that people stick around and socialize.- I played a bastardized version of the “animal game” last night (for those of you who know it, this will make sense). Some swedish (i think) girls were teaching people. Instead of clapping your hands and knees and saying “this is the animal game and this is how we play it they say “this is the f*ck me game, ahhhh f*ck me,” then instead of going clap “monkey motion,” clap “bird motion,” everyone has a name like “crazy f*ck,” “sneaky f*ck,” “awkward f*ck” etc., and you say, “crazy f*ck crazy f*ck, what about a sneaky f*ck,” then sneaky f*ck says “sneaky f*ck sneaky f*ck, what about an awkward f*ck,” and it goes on until someone f*cks it up, at which point they have to drink. It’s a good one, and everyone gets f*cked up pretty quickly.So that’s gonna be it. Among other things my mouse has stopped responding, so I’m really hoping I don’t lose this email. I guess you’ll never know if I do. Anyway, this has been a bit more risque, but I just can’t be f*cked to censor it. As a side note, that’s my favorite australian phrase, to be used when you have to do some task and it’s just too much hassle (I can’t be f*cked.)If you CAN be f*cked to write a reply, that’d be great. I can’t guarantee a long personal response because of limited computer time, but I’ll do my best.
Hello fellas, ladies,It’s been over a week I think (although it’s hard to keep track when every day is saturday) so it’s time for another update. I’m in Noosa Heads right now, but I’ll have some reports from Byron Bay, which is where I was when I wrote the last update. At this point, faces, places, events, and days are all starting to get mixed up and washed into one, so like I did last time, I’ll just throw some bullet points at you in no particular order.- Music Update: I’m at a glorious hostel right now in Noosa called Halse Lodge. I’d describe it, but instead check out this link if you’re interested (http://www.halselodge.com.au/). When I got here I spoke to the manager about playing some gigs, and after playing a song for him he agreed to give me a free night’s accomidation, a meal, and drinks for the night if I played for a few hours. It was a huge success, so I’ve stayed on and played a couple more shows. It’s a great setup. I play out on the porch (unplugged) to the dinner/hostel/bar guests, and I walk around from table to table (or just stay at a table that is good). One thing that had really been bothering me about playing at hostels was that people would constantly yell out requests in the middle of whatever I was playing (Play Wonderwall!). I think people just aren’t aware of how rude it is, so for the last couple shows I’ve printed up sheets with every cover song I know and I’ve handed them out to the audience so they can circle their favorites. I mix them in with originals and play three 30-45 minute sets. Last night was my best show yet. I had a crowd of 30-40 completely captivated, singing along, and requesting more originals. The biggest hits of the night were “Ride Away,” “Livin’ It Up,” and my two Tenacious D numbers, Tribute and F*ck her gently. Apparently Tenacious D is worldwide.Singing loud without any amplification has proved valuable, and I can feel my voice getting stronger. Over the last three weeks I’ve been averaging about 3 hours of guitar and singing a day, and that much practice just knocks all the rust off. I feel like I’m learning a lot about performance too. I’ve known for a while how important it is to put a lot of energy out there to the audience, but recently I’ve realized how important it is to really take some time up there to delve into how I’m feeling about the song, and, at least for a second, not worry about the audience. I’ve found that the best way to do this is just to close my eyes for a few seconds and pay attention to the meaning of the song. When I come back from that, I find that I’m less worried about how the audience is reacting, which means I’m in more control. I’ve also been understanding the “less is more” thing as well. Sometimes the best thing you can do to get attention is to get really quiet for a second.Before I left for travel I expected that I’d be doing a lot of good songwriting, especially since I haven’t written anything I’m really pleased with for four months or so. For the first couple weeks it was a barren dessert. I forced myself to sit down and write a couple songs, but they were only ok, and it felt like labour. Then one morning after a big night of partying in Byron (I often do my best writing in the morning when I’m kind of hungover) I found myself whistling a melody that I really liked. I put it down on guitar, lyrics came easily, and all of a sudden I had a song I was proud of. Over the last few days I’ve had a lot more come, and I wrote another yesterday that I’m even more pleased with then the first. When it’s flowing it’s flowing I guess.- In Byron I met a group of guys from Dubbo (middle of nowhere australia) who I really liked, and I hung with them for a couple days. Two of them were really good musicians and I had some good jams with them. The one who plays lead guitar and sings (does a perfect Jeff Buckley voice) is studying in Canberra, so when I swing through there we’re gonna get together and play out. It felt good to make a connection, and since then it’s seemed a bit easier to connect. I’ve met another swedish guy named Axel who I’ve hung with a lot as well, and he’s staying at the same place in Noosa.- I’ve done a ton of intense bodysurfing. In Byron there were really strong currents, and a lot of waves that put me up so high that I had to back out at the last second. It’s been fun though, and the waves in noosa are a bit easier.- Wildlife: At the lodge there are a ton of phenomenally beautiful birds (parakeets or something) that live in the trees around, and they’ll come down and sit on your hand and eat jam if you hold a little packet. They’re almost too good to be true, so in an effort to balance themselves out, they have a horribly loud and constant birdsong. It gets extra loud when one of the huge iguanas that abound climbs up their tree, presumably to eat their eggs. You can’t have it all I guess.Yesterday I was walking in noosa national park and heard a bellow from up in the trees. I looked up and saw a Koala up there. Apparently it’s mating season, and let me tell you, nothing is a bigger turn on than a bellowing koala. It killed the mood by relieving itself. For a small animal it had a surprisingly big bladder.- there’s a really sweet old guy who lives and works here. He’s got a bad limp and a big stutter, and he hobbles around cleaning up general mess. One time I thanked him for cleaning up, and he was really touched. We’ve had a few conversations and he was really impressed with my music. It turns out he’s a bit of an artist and casual musician himself. Yesterday he approached me nervously with a few pads in his hand, and asked (after a bunch of tries) if I’d like to see his art. I was happy to, and I was actually impressed that it was quite good. He draws very simple pencil or watercolor pictures of landscapes around noosa, and I really liked them. He told me how he’s always felt really strongly connected to trees and to nature, and that comes through with the way the different parts of the landscapes seem to blend together. I’m gonna see if he’ll sell or give me one.
- In Byron I met a british girl named Elly who I had an instant crush on. We had a great chat, and somehow started talking about movies and shows. I was really surprised to hear that she was also a huge fan of “the Wire” (the best show ever, in my humble opinion), which is mostly unknown even in the US, let alone great britain. We had a great chat about all the characters, opinions about how it will end, etc, culminating with her talking about how her and her boyfriend watch it religiously. Shucks, just like the colorful yet obnoxiously loud noosa birds, there always seems to be something. She left the next morning anyway, but it was good to have a chat.
- Tomorrow I’m heading up to Fraser Island, which is a huge, wild, sand island off the east coast. I’m going to be put with 10 strangers for a 3 day self-driving/camping tour. It’s a pretty standard australian tourist stop, and everyone raves about it. I’m excited about getting to bond with a smaller group of people for more than just a night. It’s getting a bit tiring meeting so many people, maybe having a nice chat, then just moving on. I don’t even try to remember names anymore unless it’s someone who I find really interesting (a musician, a really cute girl, or someone I feel extra comfortable with). It’s a bit calculating I know, but there’s just not enough space for so many names. I’m a bit starved for the comfort of hanging out with an old friend. I sang “the welcome song” last night (it’s one of mine about having a good friend come visit in a new place), and out of nowhere I almost choked up on stage. It’s fine, I don’t feel too homesick or lonely, but from time to time I get a pang.
Wow, that was a long one. That’s what happens when you get free internet (one of the perks of playing the shows here). Hope you enjoyed it. Send me a message if you’re so inclined. Even though I can’t always write much back, I really appreciate any updates friends send about their lives.
P.S. Check out pictures here
Feb 6, 2008
a) does anyone know what song the line in this blog’s subject is from? (answer: Land Down Under)
b) does anyone know how that line ends? I myself had not the foggiest clue (my best guess was “. . . a bite a my sandwich” but I knew that was wrong), until I decided to learn it special for my gig at Halse Lodge on Australia day. The line, which by the way is an answer to the question “do you speaka my language,” is “he just smiled and gave me a VEGIMITE sandwich.” Vegimite, for those who don’t know, is a uniquely australian spread made of yeast extract. It’s black, of an almost fecal appearance, and has a unique, very salty flavor. Most non-australian’s hate it, but over the last month I’ve grown quite fond of it, and I’ll probably bring back a couple vats when I return home. By the way, a thin spread of vegimite makes eggs over-easy on toast turn the corner from good to great. I’ve had lots of eggs over-easy on toast with vegimite during my travels, because it’s great (no longer just good), it’s filling, it’s cheap, and most importantly it’s the only thing I know how to cook that doesn’t involve a microwave.
So it has been a little while since my last update, and a lot’s happened. I’m finally back in sydney, staying at a friend’s parents house (thanks naomi and the heldons), and I have unlimited email access for free (Glory Day) so I can really delve into it. As usual, I’ll use bullet points in order to save myself the pressure of coherently linking paragraphs and ideas. If I could write lyrics in bullet points I would finish at least three times as many songs as I currently do. Right now I’d say that for every 5 brilliant, earthshattering, “next smash hit,” song ideas/riffs/melodies I get, I finish 1 song. Luckily I get a ton of apparently brilliant ideas, or at least that’s what my Mom tells me.
- When I left you last, I was staying at Halse Lodge in Noosa, playing for food, lodging, and alcohol – the three staples of backpacking life. I hoped to stay for a while, but I had already booked a trip to Fraser Island and couldn’t cancel it, so to Fraser Island I went. Fraser is the world’s largest Sand Island, and apparently, since it’s sand all the way to the bottom, it has more sand than the Sahara Desert (and about a million times more trees). I went on a self-drive tour, where you’re randomly assigned to a group of ten, given camping equipment and a four-wheel drive truck, and sent out to seek your fortune. I’d been told over and over again that Fraser is great, but your group makes a big difference. I was more than a little disappointed when I found upon arrival that my group had 8 guys and 2 girls, and even more disappointed when I found that both those girls were with their boyfriends. And as I later found out, they weren’t even the type of girls who would do a little harmless flirting anyway, so I was deprived any of that enjoyable cross-gender back and forth that can make a camping trip really fun. Even worse, the guys weren’t much better. There were three irish people, who in very non-irish fashion (generalizations only go so far) complained constantly, didn’t like to sing, didn’t do their part with the camping work, and were all-around negative. There was a deaf-couple who were really nice, but by no fault of there own were quite difficult to communicate with. There was a guy in his 60′s who didn’t seem to get along with anyone but the deaf couple and me, so I was constantly the liasson between him and the group. Two british guys were nice enough, but when right away they started daydreaming aloud about a starbucks latte I knew it wasn’t a great fit, and finally there was an irish guy who I liked a lot. Blah blah blah, I’m doing the complaining now. The fact that I still had a great time speaks volumes for how cool Fraser Island is. There were dingos galore, and they were a lot less intimidating than I had expected (closer to foxes than dogs in size), and we played “dingo bingo” where the first person who spotted a dingo (me) got a dollar from everyone (this game was introduced by me, but it’s in the style of many Gary Tennis classics, so credit to you Pa). There were plenty of other cool things that I can’t be f*cked to mention, but I’ll talk for a second about Lake Wabbi. It’s one of the many inland lakes on the island, and I was particularly excited because Wabbi is the name that my youngest brother, Gray, used to use for Strawberries when he was little and couldn’t quite get the whole word. It’s a great nickname for them, and it actually sounds a lot like an Australian nickname, since they’re always shortening words and putting an “ie” on the end. The most shocking example of this is “brekkie” for breakfast, which is so universal that at McDonalds I had to order a “deluxe brekkie roll” with a straight face. Anyway, lake Wabbie was freakin cool, and in no way similar to a strawberry except that it was green, and the tops of strawberries are green. The two coolest things about this lake are that a) there are very steep sand dunes heading into it, so you can tear down them at Mach 3 and come crashing into the water with shocking speed, and b) there are a ton of little fish that come nip at you. It’s surprising, although not painful, and apparently what they’re doing is eating bits of dead skin off of your feet and fingers and elbows, etc. How symbiotic of them.
- I also need to quickly mention the bastardized game of football I played in Lake Mackenzie, another freshwater lake, crystal clear with drinkable water. There was a perfect shallow area in the lake for water football, so I borrowed a football that someone had lying around and rounded up my group of guys and another similar sized group for a game of two-hand touch. I made a rough field and explained the basic rules on the fly to an international and generally willing bunch. By the way, my team was made up of my camping group, and we used the same team name we had for our truck and group, “team sac and the balls mobile” which of course was a reference to the gender ratio represented (the two girls were thrilled about that one). Anyway, I was disheartened when, after the first incomplete pass, the opposing team picked up the dead ball and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown. We persevered though, and the game got moving along. It wasn’t the world’s most impressive display, or even close to it (europeans don’t seem to play as many games where throwing and catching is important), but it was nonetheless evenly matched. After about 45 minutes it was one to one (or 7 to 7 or whatever), and we were winding down. We had the ball with time running out, and it was fourth down. Knowing this was our last shot, I encouraged our QB (the irish guy who I got along with) to make the wise decision and throw it to me. I took off deep, and in the face of an oncoming rush, he lofted a 30 yard bomb to the back of the endzone, where I made a fully outstretched, tip of the fingers diving catch to win the game. It was probably my most glorious athletic moment since College, which is sad, but nonetheless it felt good, and it brought “Team Sac and the Ballsmobile” as close to a bonding moment as we were going to get.
- Before and after Fraser I stayed in a hostel that had a strict Prussian feel. It had at least thrice as much wall space covered by explicit and fiercely-worded rules than by decoration. The most explicit (and frequently stated) was that if you brought any alcohol onto the premises, you would be fined $2,000. I’m not sure how they intended to get that money out of a backpacker, but by God, we were warned. The reason is that they had a fully licensed “night club,” which was a rectangular room with blank white concrete walls, no windows, three metal picnic tables, a small bar with no beer on tap, and to really give it that “night club” feel, a big disco ball in the middle, so that when I went in for a quiet drink upon arrival the blasting house music, blaring lights, blank walls, and lone bartender gave it the feel of a prison cell where the prisoner had bribed the guards handsomely to smuggle in the bare minimum to get the party started. I actually played a show there when I got back from Fraser, and there were about as many girls in attendance as if it was a prison (which made singing “Steal My Kisses” a bit awkward, since it’s important to have at least one female to make eye contact with), but at least the acoustics were dynamite, what with the concrete walls and all.
- I’ve just finished Bill Bryson’s travel book about australia, “The Sunburnt Country,” or “Down Under” as my version is called, and I’m noticing that my writing style is looking a little Bryson-esque, but not as witty. At least I’m citing my influence.
- I’ll note that one final bright spot from the Fraser trip is that I remembered that I had my red, rambo-style, headband, and I brought it out and have continued to wear it almost constantly for the rest of the trip. I often don’t have the balls to bust it out, but basically I think headbands look really cool, and I’m traveling, so screw it. One nice thing about hanging with backpackers is that you can get away with a lot, and people will assume it’s just a cultural difference.
- After Fraser I went back to Noosa and played for a few more days. After that I took a 17 hour bus ride to Airlie Beach – the takeoff point for my Whitsunday Islands sailing trip. The Whitsundays are a group of breathtakingly beautiful Islands at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. Along with 17 other random travellers and 3 crew, I set off on a three day sailing trip aboard the British Defender, an old racing yacht. The group was a lot better than my Fraser group, and the trip was spectacular. Plus one of our 3 crew was a super cute tomboy named Nat who I crushed on from afar throughout the trip. I was also pleased to find out there were 5 irish girls on board. Now is as good at time as any to give my music update. I’ve been playing a lot, although the writing and inspiration has slowed down a bit from before. I learned a valuable lesson about sing-a-longs while sailing, and I also re-affirmed that the best thing you can do as a musician is have Irish people in the crowd. Let me quickly interject, if I haven’t already, that my three favorite nationalities so far are Irish, Australians, and Jamaicans. Ok, so back to the lesson I learned . . . if you’re having a “sing-song” as the Irish call it, lack of lyrical knowledge can really get in the way. There are thousands of songs where people know the tune and the chorus, but usually only the first few lines of the first verse. This became apparent during a hearty Sing-Song on our last night on the boat, and I realized, a little ways into “Free Falling” by Tom Petty, that no one knew the verses. I remembered reading about “Lining” in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” where one person yells out the lyrics quickly before each line in church (since in those days very few people could read the hymnals), so I started doing that, and we had the longest, loudest, most heartfelt version of “Free Falling” the Whitsunday Islands have ever known. Some other things I’ve noticed is that everyone loves Jack Johnson, but not as much as Oasis. Apparently they were way bigger everywhere else than they were in the US, and they were pretty big in the US. No matter what type of crowd you have, you can play “Wonderwall” and have everyone singing. It’s kind of like an ace up my sleeve if things are going poorly. Also, since approximately 1/4 of the 80 or so songs I know are Dave Matthews, I’ve been dissapointed to see how little love he gets internationally. Most people haven’t even heard of him, let alone his music. I’ve tried to introduce people to it, but my renditions just don’t do him justice, and I can only describe it so much. When I have met real Dave Matthews fans it’s felt as close as I can come to meeting an old friend, and I’m not exaggerating. I met a group of mexicans, then later some Dutch girls, then some guys from Belgium, and each time it was great – I’d take out the guitar and play some old favorites for people who actually appreciated it and talk Dave for a while. Funny what can make you feel at home.
- Back to the Whitsundays. I did some unbelievable snorkeling with a backdrop of jungle cliffs and waterfalls, and I went to possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, Whitehaven Beach. I’ve attached a picture to get the idea, but pictures just can’t do it justice. It was almost deserted. All I can say is go see for yourself.
- By the way, I have been taking copious pictures, and I know they would help put all this stuff in context, but unfortunately I’ve lost the piece that connects my camera to the computer. When I get a new one I’ll send more pictures than you’d ever want to see. UPDATE: PICTURES HERE
Mar 2, 2008
Well, that’s not exactly true, cause tomorrow I’m going to Thailand, and since I last emailed I’ve been in Canberra and Melbourne. Canberra was great fun, but only cause I had some good friends to hang with (more on that later) and Melbourne was just freaking great.
My trip to Canberra started out on a high note when I made $30 in 25 minutes busking in the Greyhound station, before I was told to pack it up. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that this was really the only full-blown busking attempt, and considering how lucrative it was I’m a fool not to have spent more time doing it. I’m not sure what the aversion is, because I have no problem playing in public, and I’d play and sing at most bus stations I went to, but I seem to have an aversion to putting out that old guitar case. In Melbourne I made a lot of grand plans to spend a few late evening hours busking, but when the time came I just never felt like it. I’ll tackle that later I suppose, but on to Canberra.
The friends I was staying with had a bunch of other friends in town all staying in their one-bedroom apartment, so my stay had a college road trip type of feel that extended beyond only the sleeping arrangements. All in all there were 9 of us in the apartment, and even though I only knew a couple of the group of old friends, I felt included and was able to squeeze right into some conversations and running jokes. On saturday night we began the evening by going to see one of their friends at a Government sponsored Aussie Hip-Hop show in the parking garage for the National Museum. Somehow I don’t see that happening in the parking lot of the Met, but it was a well run little event, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good their friend was (I think his name is Omar). Aussie hip-hop is truly its own animal, and generally I like it. Based on a little smattering, there are some good lyricists among them and there’s a little more to their lyrics then most contemporary U.S. Hip Hop songs. The standard theme of “I’m pretty much the best rapper to grace your eardrums with my flow” was still present, but there seemed to be more diverse themes than just money, bling, bitches, and violence. There tends to be a lot of stuff about chilling in the summer time, and love for their homeland, and some other stuff that I missed. Think “summertime” by will smith but with an australian accent. The whole scene is a little funny, cause with virtually no black population, there’s nothing to keep these whiteboys from thinking they’re the hardest baddist sh*t in the hood, but on the other hand that freedom gives a unique spin to the genre. Check out some for yourself. When I get some solid recommendations I’ll pass them on.
Anyway, after the concert a huge rambunctious group of us went out to a local bar. I had an early night because I was beat from the night before, but the party made it home some time after 2 and I woke up and got involved for another hour or so. The highlight by far was the next morning, which was absolutely straight from a College road trip. Everyone began stirring around 10:30 or so, and soon began running through their nights. Everyone had gotten separated, one guy won $30 in pool, and one had gotten locked out, had to scale the wall onto the second story pool area and break in, and we soon realized that one of the guests, a mohawked british fellow that I can only remember as “the pirate” was nowhere to be found. We rang his cell phone but discovered it was with us in the room. After ten minutes of worrying and discussing whether he had picked up (that’s australian for taking a girl home), we heard a shout from outside, and lo and behold it was the pirate. We let him in and he seemed to be in a great mood, which was surprising because he told us that he had spent at least two hours trying to break into the building unsuccessfully, and had ended up using a piece of cardboard as a blanket and sleeping in the building parking garage. I almost bust a gut listening to him describe how he felt like Lara Croft from tombraider with all his different attempts to get in. In the end, he didn’t have a high enough level access key, but it sure was a great story. There’s just something golden about those mornings after a big party where everyone sleeps in the same room and wakes up hungover (or still drunk) and slaphappy, and pieces the night together story by story. I’d contend that often that morning is better than the actual night itself.
Anyway, after a few days I left Canberra. It’s a strangely designed city, apparently after Washington DC, but I didn’t see the resemblance. There’s just a lot of empty parks with sparse rows of trees. It’s the capitol of australia by the way, and the only place in the country where Hardcore Porn can be produced legally, although sadly I didn’t make it to any photoshoots (and if I did I wouldn’t tell you).
So I headed out and down to melbourne, and I was pleased to see a few kangaroos on the bus ride. Everyone I had talked to told me I would love melbourne, and they were absolutely right. After my first day of walking around the Brunswick area, an up-and-coming art and music type of district, I knew I’d have to stay longer than just the week and a half I had planned. I also stayed at a hostel that had a lot of cool long term people there. I met a few groups of guys who I absolutely hit it off with, including two of the guys whose room I was staying in.
After travelling for a while I realized that one of the reasons I went in the first place that I wanted to meet a lot of interesting people who really challenge me. That’s proved pretty difficult, despite meeting a ton of people who I’ve liked, so it was nice to really feel like I connected a bit. I think something about that feeling got me inspired and I wrote a really catchy, upbeat song that everyone seems to like so far, especially me.
I had two gigs lined up when I arrived, and by hitting the street I got another one at a good venue. They all went quite well, considering I didn’t have a ton of time to self-promote, and I was able to get some hostel folks and a few others I met while travelling to come out. Each of the venues invited me back, which brings me to my next point.
As a number of you predicted, I’ve decided to extend my stay even further. After thailaind, I’ll be coming back to melbourne for another two or three months to pursue music more. There’s a great, vibrant music scene, and I just got a really strong gut feeling that I needed to come back. Considering it’s intuition and gut feelings that seems to drive most of my major decisions these days. I just think that Australia has more to offer me, or I have more to offer Australia, or whatever. So for now it looks like it will be summer by the time I return to the U.S. I’ve gotten quite used to travelling, the carefree lifestyle, and the constant time to reflect. Again I have big plans to do some serious busking in Melbourne, but this time I’ll actually follow through, and that should help keep the money going.
Just in case any of you were wondering, this email’s subject line “I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know just where I been” is from my favorite song by one of my favorite artists – “In the Journey,” and Martin Sexton respectively – and I’m currently listening to him, and the line does describe how I feel in a way. It’s just like I’m drifting out here in space, very far from anyone who really knows me. Sometimes it’s really lonely, but I’m as free I’ve ever been, and I’m learning to cope with the lonely part and learning to love the free part, and there are even some times where someone will step in a bit closer and I don’t feel lonely anymore. I’ve been reading some Jack Kerouac (of the Beat Generation, wrote the classic ” On the Road) and the way he writes about his travels, the friends he meets, and buddhism has had a big effect on me. I’d highly recommend anything he’s written, and I’ve read “Big Sur” and “Dharma Bums” and love them both, although Big Sur’s a little dark. He holds all the humanity he encounters in such a gentle and tender way that it can bring tears to your eyes reading it. It makes me happy to think that same way he does as I walk around the streets in strange cities and have pleasant little interactions with people. There’s sometimes something so beautiful about people when you can step outside and observe them, and it almost feels like a privilige to get to step into their world for a second. Even the angry guys I saw get in a fight in Canberra had a certain childlike innocence to them (easier to say that since I wasn’t in the way of their fists I’m sure). Anyway, I think getting to see a really different slice of humanity is why I’m so excited about Thailand and extending my travels.
So I guess that’s where I’ll leave you for now. As always, I’d love to hear what’s going on for you, and thank you to everyone who’s written so far. Oh yeah, here are my last batch of photos from Australia :
Mar 23, 2008
Hi guys, it’s been a while since I’ve sent any updates. The most simple reason for this is that when I’ve sat down to write one over the past few weeks, I just haven’t felt the inspiration to write anything that could really describe my experiences to a standard that I would deem acceptable. But since high personal standards are the biggest killer to creative productivity, I’ll just write whatever I feel like.
I’ve been in Thailand for three weeks now. I spent a few days with a friend’s parents in Bangkok, took a three day jungle trek from Chiang Mai in the north, and have been staying in a small mountain town called Pai for the last two weeks. Ok, below I’ll bullet point some observations.
- the food is f*cking spectacular. I have eaten like a king every day, I haven’t prepared or cleaned up one meal myself, and I’ve never spent more than $6 U.S. dollars for a meal, usually more like $2. Everything is exotically flavored and spicy, and my pallet is in a constant state of stimulation. Most of the ingredients are organic and fresh, and although it’s often greasy, there are very few carbohydrates. I’m beginning to fear that when I return home my pallet will be irrevocably spoiled and I’ll be bored with most of what western food has to offer. Haha, just kidding, I’ll always eat tons of almost anything that’s put in front of me. More likely I’ll be spoiled and never want to prepare my own food again, although when I look at it, I never wanted to prepare my own food in the first place and did it only out of necessity. Oh yeah, and they make these killer fruit shakes everywhere for less than $1 a piece, and I down about 3 or 4 a day.
- The food is really freaking good.
- I like the food a lot.
- The jungle trek I went on was a really neat experience. I paid a bit extra and a group of four went deep into the jungle where we wouldn’t see any other Farang (whities), and I think that was worth it. The first day was a lot of travel and a very lackluster one-hour elephant ride. I was sitting on elephant back with this other guy, while a thai fellow pulled the elephant at approximately 0.5 miles per hour along the path. The elephant would stop from time to time to get a new branch to swat itself (and us, subsequently), and the thai guy would look back in a bored manner and say “uuuuhhhhhhh” which apparently is the equivalent of saying “mush” to a sled dog, but with a way slower, more lackluster reaction. By the time it was over, I was ready to not be on an elephant anymore. That said, it was a unique experience to have had. Elephants are freaking huge.
The first night we stayed at a little farm and drank thai wiskey and moonshine with our Thai guide, Abba. He cooked up some fried grasshoppers, which tasted like the oil they were fried in, some delicious rice and vegetables, and most delicious of all, some semi-cooked pig flesh/skin. Seriously, this stuff was unbelievably delicious. I ate a ton of it and somehow avoided food poisoning.
As we trekked through the jungle the next day, Abba told us about the myriad uses for the different plants we encountered. It seemed there were two basic categories. The more impressive of these was all the different plants they used “for make cooking,” and a bit less impressive was the plants “for medical.” It seems that no matter what ails you, you can take any number of plants or animals, put it in Thai whiskey, drink it, and Wallah, you feel better. Maybe that would explain why I haven’t really gotten sick on this trip (except for the food poisoning which I’ll describe in alarming detail later). Anyway, Abba would show us some plant or hack off a piece of tree bark and describe it’s purpose kind of like this, “tiger bark, for make cooking, mmmm spicy, good. Put in whiskey for ache, for medical, feel better,” and then each time he would end by saying “Nature” followed by a satisfied “Hmmph.” This always made me laugh pretty hard to myself, cause when my youngest brother, Gray, was maybe 5 or so he categorized things into two main groups – “Nature” or “Electric.” Throwing the football, gardening, going for a walk, eating vegetables, and any other number of wholesome activities or things were “nature,” whereas plastic, playing video games, dessert, and letting the faucet run unnecessarily were of course “electric.” He claimed to care more about “nature” then “electric,” yet given the opportunity he always seemed to choose video games over playing in the yard. We gave him a pretty hard time about it. Anyway, my main point here is that this Trek was very very nature.
The second night was the highlight of the trip, and one of the highlights of my life to date. We stopped in a small farming village of 60 or so. There were hundreds of pigs, piglets, cows, dogs, cats, chickens, and roosters (I now hate roosters, more on that later) running around willy nilly, which I thought was pretty fun. I quickly found the gang of neighborhood kids (aged 3-6 or so) who spoke no english, and was able to befriend them. I used the trick I’ve seen my dad pull a thousand times, and I’d recommend it for anyone who has trouble connecting with kids. You put your hand out for a high five and wait. Sometimes kids don’t get it, so you slap your own hand. Eventually someone will come over and slap your hand. Repeat. Usually they’ll go for a hard slap, at which point you feign exaggerated agony from the power of their slap. Repeat. They love this sh*t. It’s a little telling about human nature that even children get pleasure out of apparently hurting someone, but on the other hand I think they usually know it’s a joke. Anyway, variations on this of course include dodging their slap, and anything else, but at this point you’ve pretty much got it made. Anyway, I got to be friends with the kids, and thereby won the respect of the adults (I think). That night I played my guitar, which I had with me. I hadn’t carried it from place to place, but instead they had a courier motorbike it to each stop. Very “electric,” but the “nature” of acoustic music counteracted it, so I was OK. Anyway at night I played for about 25 villagers and kids who gathered around after dinner (which was delicious of course). That was the real highlight. Everyone went mad for it and I’ve never had a more attentive audience. People were singing along, and a bunch were making unsuccessful efforts to clap in rhythm. I forgave them of course cause it was just so darn endearing. Anyway, it was possibly the best performance of my life. I have pictures, but like a fool I left my memory card reader in bangkok. Maybe later. *UPDATE: PICTURES HERE -
Mar 23, 2008
Apr 27, 2008
Good God, it’s been far too long that I’ve written, and now there’s so much to cover I hardly know where to start. I’ve just returned to Bangkok after a trip with The Hunger Project in Bangladesh, and that was an amazing, life-altering experience, but I’ll give myself a little more time to process that, and I’ll save a whole email for that week alone. Before I go any further, below are links to my photo albums on Facebook. Anyone can see these, whether or not you have a facebook account. If you have an extra good memory you’ll see pictures of things I talked about a long time ago (like from my jungle trek).
When I left you last I was in the village of Pai in the north of Thailand, it was approximately 3 1/2 weeks ago, I was slightly thinner, and my liver was slightly healthier. Soon after writing my last update I accompanied my Japanese friend Toshiro, his Thai girlfriend Lek, and six education majors from Chang Mai up to this rural village in the mountains for two day stint teaching at a middle school. For the class I wrote a song with some basic english phrases built in, and based upon the reaction from the kids I’m confident that “Hello Hello Hello Hello” will my first Thai hit, if only in one rural village. 15 “I’m not an idiot” points if you can guess the last line of the song.
I left Pai a couple days after that expedition, since my visa was running out, and I headed for the Republic of Laos and my first experience in a communist country. The preferred method of travel (at least from where I was) is the Slow Boat down the Mekong river. I had heard mixed things about how crowded, uncomfortable, and long the trip might be, but I needed to see for myself. I gotta say, I highly recommend the experience. They cram 60-100 people (and a couple livestock) onto a boat that’s about 120ft by 10 ft., and you basically just party for two days while cruising past some of the most beautiful mountains and fishing villages you could imagine. My guitar came in handy and I played for about 6 hours each day to a captive audience. I’ve known for a while how important energy is with music, but I’m still alarmed by how I can feel completely burnt out and tired after playing for thirty minutes to a lackluster audience, while if people are urging me on and getting into it I can easily go for three hours straight, often more than once in a day. Read the second half of that sentence starting at “or if people are urging me” and tell me you don’t laugh. If you don’t, you’re a more mature person than I (for proper effect pronounce “mature” with a hard “T”). Another quick highlight of the boat trip was seeing kids, often naked, come running down to the shores of the river from villages that have absolutely no access other than the river (and no electricity), and waving with enormous smiles on their faces. That just feels good, I don’t care who you are.
The boat journey ended in Luang Prabang, which is probably the most beautiful, clean city I’ve been to in Southeast Asia thus far. A group of nearly 20 people formed from the boat and got a nice place by the river, but after traveling solo for so long, it felt really constricting and cumbersome to be tied to so many people, so I had to distance myself a bit. Over this trip I’ve developed a fierce independence, which has been really nice most of the time. I don’t know of any greater freedom than traveling by yourself in a foreign country. You can do anything you want, whenever you want. Anyway, I did meet up with a smaller group and hung with them for a bit, but as much as anything it was because there were two breathtakingly beautiful and interesting girls among them, and even then, I found myself breaking loose quite quickly. Before I did, I took a trip with them to the big waterfall outside of the city (the name escapes me). I could give long descriptions about this place, but instead I’ll say only that, along with Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands, it was one of the two most awesome place I’ve ever seen, and I’ll urge you to check out my pictures, even though they don’t do it justice.
The next day I headed out to Vang Vieng, a small village that’s turned into quite the party spot. There are two main activities that take place in Vang Vieng. The most common is sitting in one of the restaurants during the pounding heat of the day, nursing a hangover, drinking fruit shakes, and watching “Friends” or “Family Guy,” which are playing in every single restaurant. The activity that leads to the hangover being nursed is tubing down the river. You rent a tube for about $4 and head upriver from the town, then you float down stopping at the many bamboo bars that line the river. They give away free shots of “Lao Lao” (lao whiskey, it’s tough to get down) and drinks are cheap and plentiful. The coolest part of the activity is that every bar has an ENORMOUS trapeze style rope swing or a huge zip-line, the likes of which would be sued out of existence in the US faster than you can say “ambulance chaser.” It’s actually pretty terrifying the first time you do it, and your release point from the swing is high enough that the impact on the water is jarring. I witnessed some of the most excruciating belly-flops I’ve ever seen, as well as some very intoxicated people releasing too early and landing in shallow water, or falling off the rope swing towers. But hey, no one was seriously injured that day, so I’m not gonna worry. Despite all this apparent fun, I didn’t actually enjoy tubing very much. This is because of the electronic/house/drum and bass music. Forgive my impending rant, but I cannot abide this stuff, particularly anything with that driving “thump thump thump thump” drum machine beat. It seems to have taken over in Europe, and is gaining ground almost everywhere else. On the river it was blasting from nearly every bar, on blown out speakers at max volume, and you could always hear at least two if not three or four of these songs playing simultaneously. I can’t help but pay close attention to any music that’s on, and when this music is playing, despite all attempts to appreciate it, I lose my energy and want to leave immediately. When two or three songs are playing simultaneously, it’s enough to make me want to intentionally rope swing into the shallows head first. It’s weird, cause so many people seem to be energized and having a great time, but I don’t have any control over my reaction. It seems to me that when none of the instrumentation of a song is being played by actual human beings on actual musical instruments, you’re not gonna hear any soul. Or at least I’m not capable of hearing it. OK, rant complete.
I hung in the town for a week (avoiding all bad music) and met back up with each of the two groups I had hung with before. It was nice to see people around who I knew. That said, the real highlight of my stay was getting to know the Laos people. (Disclaimer: I’m about to make broad generalizations about an entire nation of people) They are some of the most beautiful, friendly, welcoming, laid back people I’ve ever seen. Everyone says hello with smiles that they really mean, and if you talk to anyone for a bit there’s a great chance they’ll invite you over for a drink, or at least consider you a friend whenever they see you around. I also really like the way they say thank you, which is “Cop Chi Li Li” in part because it fits perfectly to the tune of “the boxer” by simon and garfunkle (Cop chi li li [boom], cop chi li li, li li li li, cop chi li li [boom]) One afternoon I spent with a Laos family stood out.
Let me start by mentioning briefly the availability of drugs in Laos. They’re everywhere and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal – on the menu of most bars you can order mushroom or marijuana shakes, opium tea, etc. etc. One afternoon I had taken one of these mushroom shakes at a place called sunset bar, and spent a few of the most serene, spectacular hours of my life on a little platform they had erected out on the river, looking at the mountains, walking in the water, kicking it in a hammock, and watching people fishing with nets and children playing in the river. I hate to sound like a pusher, but this was a beautiful, spiritually and emotionally valuable experience, and if you’re ever in Laos where it’s de facto legal, go for it. Anyway, as I was coming down but still feeling a little lucid, I started playing with a Laos kid, throwing rocks in the water. His older brother and cousin came by and we had a rock throwing contest. Pretty soon they invited my over to the bungalow where their whole family was picnicking, and I found myself challenged to an arm wrestling match by the strongest of them. He looked pretty lean, but when I saw his arms I knew it was going to be a challenge. Despite my weakened state, I won three very close matches. At that point I was “in” and they almost demanded that I hang out and drink and eat with them. By the way, this whole time they were speaking Lao and I was speaking english, but it was surprisingly easy to communicate. They introduced me to Laos drinking culture, which I actually quite liked. There’s one glass, and one person takes a turn pouring a drink for each person around the circle, who drinks it quickly and returns it to be refilled for the next person. It’s nice because it makes you really engage with the people you’re drinking with. This started me thinking about how beautiful the family unit seems to be in Lao culture, and how healthy and happy the people I had seen were. There we were, me and a family (and some cousins) of 7 or 8, in a tiny bungalow on a pristine river with the sun setting behind dramatic jutting jungle mountains. Due to the size of the bungalow, there was a relaxed and constant physical contact, even among men. As I sat there I had different people with their arm around me, or their leg touching mine, or whatever. At one point the little boy I had been playing with fell asleep on my lap. I thought about the way that this type of contact not only builds a closer bond, but also probably strengthens the family’s germ and disease resistance (as would the practice of sharing the drinking glass). I stayed with them into the night and I’ll remember it as one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
As I’ve been traveling I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it is that makes people happy and fulfilled, and how I can learn from that. My thinking was really effected when, after he returned from the peace corp about a year ago, my friend Anders told me that the village people in Guinea (one of the poorest nations in the world) were the happiest he had ever met. Again and again on this trip I’ve seen the same to be true with people who live simple lives, have close connections to their family, and have very few material possessions. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that most of the people I met in Laos were far happier than most of the people I know in the US. I don’t know how to integrate that fact with my existence that has reached a level of complexity that might preclude me from ever starting a life in a fishing village in Laos, but there’s certainly something to take away from it. For now I just hope that you get to have similar experiences yourself, and can maybe take something away from it like I have from this.
Well, I still have more to cover before I even start into Bangladesh (which by the way, relates further to the previous paragraph), including a trip to the “Tiger Temple” to pet live tigers with my dad and a jump from a 45 foot waterfall, but that will have to come later, as this has proved to be one of my most lengthy emails yet. Check out my pictures, and as always, I cherish any messages I get from you.
May 25, 2008
Sawasdee Krub, Sabadee, A Salaam Awalakem, G’day (hello in Thai, Lao, Bangali, and Australian),
I write you from the Holiday Inn outside of the Melbourne airport, after a delayed flight from bangkok caused me to miss my connection to LA. So for those of you who are wondering, I’m just chillin’ at the holiday inn. That’s a song by Snoop Dogg and Chingy. It’s a fun one for a call and response sing-a-along, and while I was at my last job I worked for hours with my cube-mate, tessa, until we finally got the timing down so that she could correctly sing, “what you doin?” and I could answer “just chillin at the holiday inn,” “who you with?” “Me and my peeps why’n'chu bring fo of yo friends,” “what we gon’ do?” “hit on each other and sip on some hen (hennesey), one thing leadin to another let the party begin.” I digress, although I have another Snoop related topic later in this email, in case you’re a fan.
I spent the last month in the islands in the gulf of thailand. I’ll talk briefly about that experience. My first week and a half I spent in Koh Phan Ngan, home of the infamous “Full Moon Party,” which consists of over 10,000 tourists getting ridiculously drunk and or high on one small beach on the night of the full moon, and partying until day-break, listening to thumping techno and dancing like idiots. I’m glad to say that I just missed said party, although I was there for the half-moon party. It was also enormous (2,000) people and took place in the jungle, but was quite similar to the full-moon party. I had surprisingly good time considering the type of music that was played and the fact that I avoided the temptation to try one of the many ecstasy pills floating around. A few people told me that “once you pop you can’t stop,” so I was a bit worried I’d like it too much, and decided to pass. The island was beautiful, but the social scene was a bit too “spring break” for me, so I decided on to move on to the neighboring island of Koh Tao (literally “turtle island,” although I didn’t see any) which is more laid back.
I fell in love with Koh Tao immediately. There was a really friendly, laid-back vibe there, and I got a nice little bungalow by the beach. The first night I chatted with some musicians for a while and got a gig playing every few evenings at a bar in town, so I was pretty much set. I don’t have any thrilling stories to tell, other than to say that for 2.5 weeks I had a fantastic time practicing during the day, lying in my hammock, watching the monsoons roll in and out, taking yoga classes, eating fresh seafood on the beach, and socializing at night. I’d highly recommend Sairee Beach in Koh Tao if you ever make the wise decision to spend time in Thailand. Oh yeah, my other Snoop Dogg related comment is that my first night I covered the Snoop Dogg version of the song “Lodi Dodi” and it was a smashing success, and was requested every night after that. I’ve come to realize that if you must play soul-sucking cover gigs at crowded bars, one of the most fun and well-received things you can do is cover rap songs. Plus I felt more confident since there were no brothers around to call me out for being a white boy from the hard streets of Bryn Athyn (second lowest crime rate in the state of Pennsylvania).
About the time I headed for the islands I realized that I needed to get really serious about practice so that I would come back in top form, so for the last month I’ve been practicing music for two or more hours every day, and doing a lot of song-writing. Despite some occasional pangs about my trip coming to a close, as my final week rolled around it became absolutely clear that I was ready to go home. I’ve been thinking about my music career almost non-stop, and have had music pulsing through my veins day and night. I’m as ready as I could be to hit the ground running. All in all I’ve written ten new songs (and a lot of pieces of other songs), and I’ve matured as a singer, guitar player, song-writer, and performer. My current plan is to spend a month or two or three in San Diego, then move to the Philadelphia area to live with my dad for a while and build a fanbase there.
I wish I had some final moving thought to leave you with, but I’m focused on getting home. I guess I’ll just urge as many of you as can possibly make it work to take a similar trip at some point in your life. I’ve learned more about the world than I could ever have learned in a book or on the internet, and I’ve met so many friends and seen so many places. Perhaps more importantly, spending so much time by myself has been hugely valuable. I’m more independent and self-confident than I’ve ever been, but at the same time I’d like to think I have more humility in realizing that the way I was brought up is not the only way. There’s so much out there and so many different cultures, and I don’t think you can ever really understand a group of people without experiencing a bit of the way they live or at least talking to them in person. So I know everyone has important careers and bills to pay and obligations, but that stuff will always be around. Traveling the world can be cheap and truly workable for almost anyone. If you feel that itch, or you’re one of the many people that has emailed me saying how jealous you are, I urge you to try on what it might look like to take a year or a few months off from your life and see the world. It might be more plausible than you think.
So anyway, thank you to everyone who’s read my journals, and a special thank you to anyone who’s written me an email. As I’ve said many times, it has meant so much to me to hear from friends. I also hope you stay up to date on my music career, cause I’m confident I will be successful, and I think you’ll enjoy watching that process.