Monday, March 23, 2009

Now, later, neither, both.

During the early years of my “on the road” career, I traveled with a ridiculously gifted drummer named Craig. Some of you know him. Many of you own CD’s that he’s played on.

Craig and I had lots of jokes. When you’re out on the road – in hotel rooms, cars, etc – 12-15 days a month, for 7 years, you cope anyway you can. Namely, you either kill each other or you come up with lots of jokes. We chose the jokes. Sometimes, when other musicians were traveling with us, they probably wished we had chosen to kill each other. It’s tough to just jump in when two dudes are riffing and zinging and such. It’s tough to immediately get hold of the kind of weird, twisted humor that arises out of thousands of miles of late-night driving and thousands of hours of hanging out with church people. So other folks usually felt left out. I mean, we had jokes within jokes. Triple-decker joke sandwiches. Joke stew, made from equal parts cynicism, sarcasm, extreme fatigue, and gas-passing.

Not everybody appreciated it. But whatever. We mock what we do not understand.

One of our bits went like this. Maybe we just finished some gig that maybe didn’t go so well, and maybe we get in the car for, like, I don’t know, a 9-hour drive. Maybe like Amarillo to College Station. (You’re thinking that I should’ve flown for a trip like that, right? Only you’re not realizing that Amarillo-to-College-Station is probably a 4-leg flight. Amarillo to DFW to, I don’t know, Phoenix or Memphis, because that’s just the way these things work, to Houston to College Station. And that would take way more than 9 hours and we wouldn’t even be able to stop in Abilene and eat at Joe Allen’s. And it would’ve probably cost $642 per person, plus we’d have to check extra bags because musicians have so much crap to carry around when they go places to rock faces. So flying isn’t always a good option.) So we’d have this 9-hour drive ahead of us, and we’d sort of be in a bad mood because maybe the gig was not so good, but also we’d sort of be in a good mood, because the gig is finally over. So one of us would make a joke. Any joke. All of our jokes were funny, so it doesn’t matter which one. Any joke. I’m telling you, Craig and me were like Abbott and Costello or Rocky and Bullwinkle or Zack and Cody even. Have you seen those kids. Even as they get less cute, they're still comedic dynamite, those two bowl-hair-cutted runts. Hilarious.

So like I said, one of us would make a joke, and we’d both laugh. And then the other guy – the one who didn’t make the joke – would say,

“It’s funny now, but it ain’t gonna be funny in Temple.”

It wasn’t anything against Temple. I’m honestly just picking that town at random. I think it’s on the way back from Amarillo. I don’t know for sure. I’m not Rand McNally, okay.

The point of this joke-on-top-of-a-joke was that, when you first get in the car, and you feel kind of fresh and alive, lots of stuff is funny. But 7 and a half hours later, when you’re still in the car coming home from a gig that wasn’t great anyway, nothing is funny. You know what I mean?

Some trips are like that. Something that’s funny at the beginning of the trip won’t be funny later, when you’re just very ready to get home; when all the ingredients of your joke stew have dried up except for the gas-passing, which actually only gets more prolific after long drives due to all the sitting down and fast-food eating and coffee-drinking. And by that time, the gas-passing isn’t so funny.

OK, gas-passing is pretty much always funny, unless you’re the only one not doing any passing. But that’s your own fault.

But anyway, that’s one kind of humor. The “funny now but not so funny later” kind.

But then there’s another kind that’s sort of the opposite. It’s the “not funny at all now, but funny later” kind. This is actually more common. You’ve probably seen lots of examples. Here are a few:

Slipping on the ice.
Getting kicked, punched, pummeled or otherwise stricken in the crotch.
Puking on somebody or getting puked on.
Accidentally passing gas, loudly, in public.
Exiting your car while it’s still in neutral and watching it roll – unoccupied, hopefully – into a pond.
Getting chased by bees or dive-bombed by bats.
Calling your current girlfriend by your ex-girlfriend’s name.
Falling into a vat of hot baked beans.
Discovering your child ate a dead roach.

All that stuff would be pretty horrible at the time. Some of it would temporarily end friendships or other social connections. But it’s all pretty funny later.

This past weekend, Ben Love and I lived a day of “funny later.”

We had a gig in Alamogordo, NM. I only know a little bit of Spanish, but I can tell you this much. Alamogordo means “fat Alamo.” That’s pretty funny right there. I mean, picturing the battle of the Alamo as a movie starring fat actors is pretty funny. Kevin James as fat Davy Crockett, Jack Black as fat Sam Houston, Chris Farley as fat Santa Anna, and the guy who plays Randy from My Name is Earl as fat Judas Iscariot (who wasn’t actually at the Alamo but would appear in a flashback scene that would serve as a cautionary tale and maybe bring in the evangelical crowd). Fat Alamo is funny stuff.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. Again, that’s actually funny right now, and it would’ve been funny then as well. Pay attention, people. This is the kind of advice you can't get on Third Day's blog.

Anyway, Ben and I were headed out there to meet up with John Simmons and Voddie Baucham. Voddie does these conferences on family and education and God and stuff, and he invites me to do music at lots of them. I like Voddie, his teaching is never boring, and I like to have stories to blog about, so I go.

So here’s the story.Voddie and Johnny were going to be flying out of Houston Intercontinental, because they live in the Houston area, but Ben and I were scheduled out of Austin. We like that airport better, plus the flights were cheaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

10:30 flight, so we left my house at 7:30 to have plenty of time for parking and such. About 15 miles west of town, we get a flat tire. It was about 40 degrees and raining, so changing the tire was totally sweet in that way that getting pummeled in the crotch with a vat of hot baked beans is totally sweet.

Sissy musicians are known for their way-good automotive repair skills and general love of manual labor, so that was a plus.

Fifteen manicure-ruining minutes later, we’re back in the car, feeling like real men. And wishing we had some lemon-scented moist towelettes. Maybe some styling mousse and some venti cappuccinos too. No luck. But we pressed on.

Only we couldn’t press on, because now the car won’t start. Dead battery. See how funny this is? Now, I mean? Ha!

After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting people to stop and give us a jump, I called my wife. She drove out to where we were. Another 20 minutes later, we’re trying to jump the car and we realize that the cables are no good. Ha! HaHa!

So now I call AAA. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “why didn’t you call them in the first place?” Are you ready for this? Because I thought it would take too long. HaHa! So funny NOW.

By the time the AAA guy gets there, we’re too late to make the flight. Long story, but we end up flying out of Houston, only paying WAY more because we changed the flights the day of. HaHa! So funny!

I mean funny now. Not then. Then it was funny in that way that it was funny that time when you were in the middle of puberty and you slipped on the ice while publicly passing gas which resulted in diarrhea in front of all those people, some of whom were pretty girls. Funny like that.

I’m thrilled to say that, after that, nothing "funny" happened for several hours. Or at least nothing that needed to wait a few days to become funny. Ben is almost as witty as me, so of course lots of funny stuff happened. But nothing worth telling.

Oh wait! Our plane, while landing, did get – I’m pretty sure this is correct – 17 inches from the ground and then suddenly shoot back up into the air and fly around some more before landing again 10 minutes later. (The pilot later explained that he had to pull up at the last second because we weren’t going to have enough runway to land and we would’ve crashed and maybe all died. HaHa!) But that still isn’t all that funny, really. Not yet anyway. Maybe in a few days.

The next “funny” thing happened a couple of hours later. The kind people that were hosting the conference had arranged for a rental car for Ben and me to get to the gig. We had landed in El Paso and had to drive the 90 or so miles to Fat Alamo.

Maybe 45 minutes into the drive, we come up on one of those border checkpoint things where, I assume, the Border Patrol is attempting to catch smugglers and druglords and such. Criminal riffraff. Instead, they caught us.

Yeah, the officer – who was wearing gloves, which, for some reason, scared the crap out of me –asked us to pull our car into one of the “now you’re gonna get it” parking spaces. At this point, Ben and I are just kind of laughing. It wasn’t funny yet, but we were teetering on the ragged edge of sanity, and that produces laughter as well. Also, we were both thinking we were about to get strip-searched and asked to recite the Gettysburg Address or whatever they make you do to prove you’re a bona fide American. Ben and I were both educated in the public school system, so we were screwed if that possibility materialized.

Thankfully, it was only this: our rental car was an unregistered vehicle. That’s a new one, huh? I’m not even totally sure what that means, but I think it’s pretty weird. The cop/agent guy seemed strangely excited at the possibility of confiscating our vehicle, but he let us off with a “warning.” I wasn’t totally sure what to do with a “warning” about my 24-hour rental vehicle having a clerical error. I decided not to say anything cute like “I am sufficiently warned” or “you warned me good” or “guess which orifice of my body is currently housing 3 pounds of ganja!” That probably wouldn’t have been funny until many years later, and then only to the people who used to know me.

So he let us go. We did the gig. I’m pretty sure the rest of the story is uninteresting, but sometimes uninteresting now is better than funny later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

good work if you can get it

As many of you probably know, I’ve been working a “regular job” – by “regular,” I mean regular relative to my previous ways of making a living – for the last 8 months or so. The job, for those of you late to the party, is Interim Worship Coordinator for Grace Bible Church here in my hometown. It’s a good job. At least I think it is. I haven’t had a job, well, ever. I mean, I had jobs as a kid.

Let’s talk about that. I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, and it’s mainly because of my inability to re-order my life around this new job.

But I’ve got a few minutes right now, and since the topic is “ross’ jobs and how they affect his life,” this is as good a time as any to list a few of the wonderful, bill-paying endeavors that I’ve enjoyed in my life. This is always fun.

So, here are a few jobs that I had in my high school and college years:

Sno-cone stand sales guy
Apartment maintenance
Video store worker (I made it all the way to manager at that gig, thank you very much. Then I got fired)
Food delivery driver
Camp Counselor
Flower delivery driver
Travel agency courier (This one wouldn’t make any sense in an age of paper-less airline tickets)
Cotton picker for the Texas Agricultural Extension Agency
Janitor and maintenance for USDA

I did some other stuff to make money throughout that decade or so, including raising hogs for the local livestock show, writing songs for some camps and other ministries, and working at the concession stand of the Snook Rodeo. But all of those things were sort of random, one-shot deals, so I left them off the list.

But since I graduated from college, I’ve never had a real job.

I remember the day I finished my last college class, I drove over to the USDA lab and told them I was quitting. I had no idea if I could make any money in music, but I figured it would be weird for a college graduate (especially one with a prestigious, multi-dimensional degree like Political Science) to be making $8 an hour buffing floors and scraping the gum off of brick walls with a razor blade.

This was when the economy was still pretty good. These days, there might be a fair number of college grads who’d be willing to do that sort of thing.

Anyway, now I’m working for people again. It’s been interesting. I’m learning a lot about communication. I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning that I, myself, am not always so good at communication.

I’m learning lots of other stuff too, and maybe there will be a reason and a time for saying all of that later.

But for now, know that I apologize to those of you who probably wonder where I’ve been lately. The answer is – and I never thought I’d hear myself make this excuse – I’ve been at church.

But just remember that the first word in my job title is “interim.” That means, I think, “until they get the person that they really want.” Or something. At any rate, I’ll be back to my old ways – house-performing, worship-leading-on-the-road, etc – fairly soon.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for my children’s record. The tentative title is "words that rhyme with orange." It’s coming along great. I need to figure out some way to post demos on here for those of you who are interested. Anyone have any idea about the best/easiest way to do that? I ain’t shy about showing off my art. Show me how and I’ll show you what.

Also, check out the cool updated version of my wife’s blog.

That’s all for now.