Thursday, June 30, 2011

I don't give a diddley bow what you think of my guitar!

Picture, if you will, a 23-year-old American girl using a large wooden phallus (in lieu of a hammer) to fix a nail into place on a piece of wood she tore off her bed frame (that belongs to the apartment). If you pictured that, then you pictured the latter part of my Thursday night.

So I saw the above video on Monday. I proceeded to do two things. One, download all of the Jack White I could get my hands on. And two, build a diddly bow.

Well, as easy as he makes it look in the video, for someone who doesn't have scrap wood, strings, electric guitar pickups, etc. lying around, it becomes a bit more complicated. Well, doing anything in Bangkok is complicated.

So I Googled how to make one. I knew I wanted it to be suuuuuper cheap and I wanted it to be electric. In all the videos they say, "I just used this electric pickup off one of my old guitars and soldered the wires together! How Easy!" My thought was, "Uhhhh, what's a pickup and how the heck do you wire one?" Clearly, I'm at square one here.

So I Googled guitar repair shops in Bangkok. I saw one listing for a place called "Rockabilly," described as a hole-in-the-wall, middle-of-nowhere homage to Elvis. This was my place. Of course, there was no address, just a phone number of some guy who would meet me in front of a hotel on his motorcycle and take me to his shop.

Sure. Why not? At least I'll get a story out of it, if I don't get murdered.

So that's what he did. And I get to his shop and realized that "hole in the wall" was an overstatement seeing as how there aren't really walls. It's more of a stand, an old work table and guitar parts strewn about. But I knew I was where I belonged when I saw three photos of Elvis with the King of Thailand hung up. I have the same photo blown up to 5x6 ft on my apartment wall.

So I tried, in my most basic English, to explain what I was buiding. "One string?" "Yeah, and a pickup fastened to an output cable." "That's not a guitar. Why do you want that?"

Good question. Because I'm bored. And lonely. And I want to make noise.

So he and his assistant (who he calls "boy," even though he's a grown man) proceed to dig through drawers looking for rusted old pickups that might still have some life left in them. The found one that works and said they couldn't give it to me because it wasn't very good. "I don't want it to be good. I like that one." They looked at me and kept working.

I sat at Rockabilly with them for the better part of an hour while they hooked me up and then promised to bring my finished product back to show them.

Now all I have to do it build it... and learn how to play it. But I'm sure that's the easy part in comparison, right?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Couch surfing is nowhere near a dating service

For those of you who don't know, couchsurfing is a web site where strangers get to know other strangers by crashing on their couch for a night or two. It's a great way to travel cheap. On the couchsurfing site, it says in bold letters, "couchsurfing is not a dating service." Yeah, yeah. But if I could get a date out of it, I wouldn't be opposed.

Well, that was nowhere near in the cards for me.

Richeff and I surfed on our Great American Road Trip last summer in California, Oregon and Montana. We had a blast and keep in touch with our hosts.

So, like an idiot, I decided to pay the hospitality forward and let people stay in my cubicle of a studio apartment. And I now know that there is something worse than being alone. It's stuck being around couchsurfers who aren't the definition of a good time.

The first surfers I had were a couple from India who seemed pleasant enough. I went out to dinner with them one niht and then gave them the key to my place to stay while I was working in Mae Sot. Well, while I was in a dusty border town, saving lives and contracting Dengue, these two decided to commence in the strengthening their relationship bonds in my bed every night. I know, I know, what could I expect lending my apartment to a couple who only recently fell madly in love. But what added insult to injury was that these two love birds peaced out of my apartment before I got back and didn't even wash the sheets! Come on. Those love birds are horses of a different color. I mean, not to be to graphic about it all but as it is said in Dr Strangelove, there were some "precious bodily fluids" in places.

So I shook it off and thought my next surfer would be better. A Chinese guy. He called me up before 7 a.m. becaues he decided he couldn't (or simply didn't want to) find his way to my apartment, so I had to walk to the skytrain and get him. He proceeded to stay for six days and give me constructive criticism on a regular basis. On how I should have healthier water bottles. On how the vinegar I use to wash my face doesn't smell good. On how I act too much like a boy.

Thanks, brother. How would you like it if I came to your home in China, stayed for free for six days and ragged on all your stuff? It also turns out he was a bit of a racist and misogynist. Double fun!

Then, until last night I had three women from India. The "Debbie Downers." They couldn't find things on their own, they got lost, they didn't want to go into this big, scary city alone. They decided that India was better, prettier and more fun. Well, the joke is on them for leaving home then, I guess.

So I have officially made my sacrifice to the couchsurfing god. I have one more ocuple coming next week and then I'm throwing in the towel.

I'm sorry. I wanted to be worldly. I wanted to be cool. But it's just too much work. I quit.

But if you know of someone cute and single who is traveling through Bangkok sometime soon... I might get back in the couchsurfing game for that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The art of being alone

So I have been waiting for awhile to try and think of witticisms about Dengue Fever. And I am still at a blank. I didn't really gain anything from the experience and it turned out not to be a very interesting story. I was miserablly uninteresting for two weeks.

I did learn how to shower with one hand plugged into an IV. I learned that real best friends will internalize disgust when I'm talking about suuuuuper personal things with the doctor. I learned that there are only so many ham and cheese sandwiches one can eat in a week.

But really, the best lesson I started learning over my two weeks was how to be alone. See, I spend a good amount of my time trying to ensure that I'm not alone. I let socially deplorable couch surfers stay with me (next blog topic). I spend weekends at the office if I know someone is wrong. I let my heart skip a beat when I hear the sound of someone signing onto Skype. There is something wrong with ennegaram type 7's in that we're so busy being social butterflies and making sure that people like us, that we don't actually know how to be when we're alone.

But over my two weeks of being sick, I had to learn how to sit all day and all night with relatively no one around to talk to. This was a scary prospect. Usually the longer I spend by myself, the sadder I get.

So I sat. And sat. And sulked. And slept. And sat some more. And came out on the other side alive. Alive and alone, which I never thought was possible.

And I didn't actually lick it. I still hate being alone. But it's nice to know that my world won't self destruct if I have to sit by myself. So I've been doing that a lot lately. I recently came across a whole load of new music, so I guess I'm not really alone. I have Jack White to keep me company.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yes, I know I'm pathetic

Apparently there is this new life-changing series of iPhone apps. (I know, oxymoronic, but bear with me) With this new “Augmented Reality," you can see what is going on in your general vicinity: what people in the next apartment building who I’ve never met are tweeting, what restaurants are within walking distance, and what stores are having big sales. How did I ever survive without this?! It’s like the fun and excitement of walking around outside without having to bother with leaving my room.

Alright, you get the idea. I’m not exactly sold on this Augmented Reality business. But Ollie was so gung-ho about the whole thing, that I listened to what he had to say. At the end of the conversation, with me refusing to accept this new reality, he chalked it up to me being a luddite and moved on.

But that’s not exactly true. As much as I’d like to refuse to believe that I allow new technologies and arbitrary Internet trends to invade my consciousness, I can’t. I am not that pure.

Just yesterday my friend from back home, Ward, posted a news story about Omaha pastors who are preaching that being gay is not sinful. God bless them. Well my friend who is happily and boisterously conservative, posted this to his Facebook, commenting that it’s a sin to be gay and these preachers should not be ignoring this Old Testament Biblical fact (again, oxymoronic, I know).

Now, as Ward and I disagree on almost everything politically (and apparently religiously) I always post snarky comments on his hyper-conservative Facebook musings. I can have a laugh that we are so different and move on.

But this time I got sucked in. Facebook sucked me in. The Internet. Not proud to say.

I ended up reading the five million responses to his comment. Of course, being his friends, many share his view that being gay is a sin and you love the sinner and all that nonsense. As I read through the comments, I felt myself getting physically upset. My heart started racing, my palms got sweaty, I started shaking.

It’s as if I had never been aware that there were people out there in Nebraska who hold these beliefs.

My question is, how did I let myself get so involved in this conversation, clearly not targeted to me? How did I let these strangers have such an effect on my afternoon?

Facebook, man, gets you every time. The Internet has a way of scrambling my priorities. There are very real things when working with refugees to be angry about. But somehow I managed to get myself worked up over a Facebook stream.

So I’m tainted. I am ashamed to admit that Facebook affects my day.

But, I have never downloaded an app, retweeted or hash-tagged anything. And I have yet to augment my reality.

I’ll try to keep it that way.

In the mean time, I’m going back on Facebook to read people’s posts about painting their toenails, cooking mac and cheese or whatever they think is important enough to broadcast to their friends. And I will think it’s really, truly important information to have.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kinda like rediscovering music

(I would read this blog while playing this song)

You ever hear a musician that has been around (or has been dead) for years and think, "Whoa, how did I miss this guy?" It's kinda like discovering music all over again.

A brief background:

When I was interning for the Seattle P-I my sophomore summer of college, I spent a few evening shooting the breeze with Regina Hacket, the art critic for the paper. On her desk she had a picture of Woody Guthrie, smoking with his guitar displaying his famous slogan, "This machine kills fascists." I told her how much I love Woody Guthrie and she gave m the picture (which I still have).

Then she said, "I remember hearing his record for the first time and thinking 'This is music? I'm on board." He was who introduced her to the subversive, sexy world of music. She asked me who "got me on board" with music. Buddy Holly. Without blinking an eye.

I remember going with my dad to see The Buddy Holly Story at the Omaha Community Playhouse in sixth or seventh grade and falling in love with Buddy and rock and roll. My life has never been the same, obviously. Like everyone else on the planet, I grew up on rock and roll and it was Buddy Holly's ballsy guitar that started it all.... or whoever the guy was playing him at the Playhouse.

Fast forward.

I'm in Bangkok. In bed. With Dengue fever. I watch the Fantastic Mr Fox for the third time and wait until the end of the credits to find the song that they play during the dance scene at the end of the film. "Holy hell," I thought. "This guy sounds like a mix between Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys."

It was the Bobby Fuller Four, mostly a one-hit wonder for "I Fought the Law."

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking up everything I could find on him and downloading his tunes.

It turns out, like Buddy, he was born in Western Texas and worshiped Buddy Holly. Well, anyone who worships Buddy Holly is already on my good side.

So after Buddy died in 1959, Bobby Fuller, continued his legacy of early rock and roll, West Texas rockabilly style. He did so, with little encouragement after the British invaded, until his death in 1966 at 23 (same age as Buddy, oddly). He made most of his money doing Buddy Holly covers, but he slipped a few originals onto TV and records.

I don't consider myself a Buddy scholar or anything, but I know most of his tunes by heart and don't listen to him so much anymore because I think I am OVERfamiliar.

So I am so excited to find Bobby Fuller, who is like a reintroduction to Buddy Holly.

I would like to introduce you now as well. Three point five readers, this is Bobby Fuller.

1. "A New Shade of Blue" Now if this doesn't sound like anything but an homage to Buddy Holly's "Lonesome Tears," I don't know what does. They way he punctuates his stanzas with that pain in his throat, totally Buddy. And his guitar! His guitar is slow in this tune, but has that beautiful southwestern sound that Buddy perfected.

2. "My Own True Love." This is the southwestern style that so many of the early rockers missed out on, being from Louisiana and Mississippi. I thought Buddy had the market cornered on this. But it sounds like Bobby Fuller learned a thing or two.

3. "The Chase" A departure from his rockabilly style to do an instrumental surf beat that reminds me more of Tarantino movies that Buddy Holly. But you can hear on this track just cool his guitar is.

So that's it. Just figured I'd share my new guy with the world. As always, God bless rock and roll. And, not as often, don't mess with Texas.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What was I writing about, again?

It's pouring outside. And lightning. It's a storm that, were I back home, would be dazzling. I'd want to sit on the porch and watch it, Coke in hand, with my parents. But, it's a daily occurrence here, so I just move on with my life.

Actually, I'm annoyed at the thunder that is so loud it shakes my apartment and the rain that draws in mosquitoes.

It's strange how something that used to be such a treat now has become a nuisance.

I was going to write about something interesting. Maybe something witty about my two weeks with Dengue fever. Or about that interesting Kurt Vonnegut essay I just read. Or about what I've learned about John Lennon and Phil Ochs lately.

Maybe later.

Right now I'm grouchy about the rain. And lonely. Worse than lonely. Afraid of being alone.

Well, time to watch Planet Earth, be dumbfounded by the greatness of the world around me and wish with my everything that I simply wake up in Omaha, Nebraska.