New York City
I wanted to stay up until 4 or 5am but fell asleep before 2am. I was wide awake by 6:30am. I went jogging and it was blah out there. I ran faster than normal anticipating a downpour at any moment. The rains never came.
A year ago, I began an exercise routine. I shed excess weight that I had tacked on during the summer in Las Vegas. Getting in better physical shape and paying more attention to the foods I eat helped get me through the last 12 months of rigorous traveling. I'm not in the same shape as I was last year at this time. I was more fanatical about shedding pounds and went on a drastic diet change. I could shed about 5-10 more pounds but I tried to formulate a schedule during my two weeks in NYC that is balance between work, enjoyment, and exercise. When I get back to NYC after OZ, it will be a lot colder so I won't be able to run as much, which means I'll do a better job at eating better. If I want to eat like a pig, I have to exercise. If I'm more careful about my food intake, I can get away without running.
The morning runs have been allowing me to focus and concentrate on what I must do for the remainder of the day. I also think about what I'm going to write that day. In essence, the first draft is already written by the time I'm back from a run. After a quick shower, I'm ready to sit down and crank out what I already pre-wrote inside the hallways of my mind.
These two weeks have been some of the most productive of the year. Sure, the WSOP this summer was an exception. I worked seven 100+ hour work weeks in June and July. Since I was overwhelmed, the quality of my work slipped. When I have time to actually think about what to write, then do it, and then have the time to re-work and edit my drafts... the overall quality improves. Over the past nine months, I've been handing in and publishing first drafts... and getting away with it. Writing without a net.
Last week was my opportunity to catch up and meet deadlines. This week was my chance to pre-write a lot of assignments, so I have more free time when I'm in Australia. I have three articles already in the can for Poker Players Newspaper and Bluff magazine.
I'm setting some time aside this weekend to work on the November issue of Truckin'. I have been updating the Phish blog regularly and wrote another strip club review for the Las Vegas blog.
I also finished negotiating a freelance writing contract with the Swedes at the OnGame Network. I'm going to be writing eight articles between now and the end of the year and then we'll figure something out for 2008. Although I'm not getting my rate and had to give them a discount, I negotiated my pay in Euros which should make up some of the difference.
Books. I can't get enough of them. I have a pile on my faux desk and my mission is to read all of them. I've been devouring books since my return from Europe. I finished off The Bronx Zoo earlier in the week. I'm 50% through Black Spring, a book that Henry Miller wrote for Anais Nin, which details his childhood in Brooklyn. That's two NYC books that I read back-to-back. It just happened that way. But the thing is, I read both books before and decided to re-read them since they have a different significance in my life. I read The Bronx Zoo when I was in high school and picked up Black Spring for the first time when I lived in Seattle as I finally completed my study of Henry Miller. I used to do that a lot. I'd get hooked on one author and read four or five of their books in a row. Like Philip Roth, Charles Bukowski, Spalding Grey, and Carlos Castaneda. I used to do the same with directors and I'd have a binge on all of their flicks such as Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, and PT Anderson.
I wiped my iPod clean and started from scratch. I had over 4,400 songs and trimmed the list to about 2,400. Now I have extra space to add a flick and copies of random TV shows for my 15+ hour flight from LAX to Melbourne. I also had simply too much music. All the Dead, Galactic, and Phish bootlegs were taking up 50% of my hard drive space. I had to cut down on those shows and I also slashed all the jazz that I had on there.
I created a few new playlists for running and writing background music. Over the last six months, I felt as though I was listening to the same stuff over and over. I had 4,400 songs and sometimes, I could not find anything to listen to.
The last thing I bought off of iTunes was Mago. That's the latest collaboration involving 2/3 of Medeski, Martin & Wood or the M & M part of MMW. Billy Martin is on drums and John Medeski is on keys and organ. Lots of groove-oriented jams with plenty of soul, salsa, and latin influences.
JW mentioned that I'd dig The New Mastersounds. And he was right. British slam-funk with lots of roots in boogaloo. Inspirational stuff to write and run to. I have a feeling that their live shows would be filled with frenetic energy.
I'm still obsessed with Rodrigo y Gabriela's intricate acoustic guitar work. And can't stop listening to Eat a Peach and Goats Head Soup. I have become obsessed with both albums, which were released just around the time of my birth.
Goats Head Soup is lesser known Rolling Stones album that features Angie. That's the overrated song on the album and has plenty of other gems such as 100 Years Ago which contains some heavy Keith Richards "I'm pissed off and jacked up on smack" guitar riffs. Dancing with Mr. D and Star Star never get played on the radio or often get left off of Rolling Stones Greatest Hits albums. It's a shame.
Editor's Note: The last bit of this post already appeared on Tao of Poker earlier in the week in a post titled Eat a Peach.
Since my return to New York City, I have been religiously listening to Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers Band. I had not picked up that amazing piece of music in several years and forgot what I was missing. I could write a book about the significance of that epic album from 1972.
Eat a Peach was recorded in the year before my birth and released just five months before I was born. Lead guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971, several months before it's release. Eat a Peach was a mixture of left-over tracks (such as One Way Out and Mountain Jam) from their previous double album Live at the Fillmore East. Duane Allman's electrifying guitar work appears on several of the new tracks, which they managed to get down in the studio before his fatal accident. The rest of the album was finished after his death.
For many years, music fans believed that the reason the album was called Eat a Peach was because Duane Allman was run over by a peach truck in Macon, Georgia. Although Duane Allman died three hours later in surgery due to internal injuries, he didn't collide with a peach truck, rather it was a construction truck. The "eat a peach" reference originated from a comment he made in an 1970 interview with Ellen Mandel from Good Times Magazine. She asked him, "How are you helping the revolution?" The always slick Duane replied, "Every time I'm in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace."
A bizarre and ironic tragedy hit the band 13 months after Duane Allman's death. Bass player Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, just a few blocks away from the spot where Duane crashed. For decades, rumors circulated around that Oakley died when he collided with a watermelon truck. Much like the rumors about Duane's accident involving a peach truck, Oakley's fatal crash was not caused by a runaway watermelon truck, rather he was run over by a city bus. Fruit trucks did not kill two members of the Allman Brothers Band, even though it's a great myth.
Eat a Peach has a strong historical significance for me. It many ways it could be used at different times as a soundtrack in my life. Although Eat a Peach was not the first ABB record I ever bought, it was the one I listened to the most in college. I borrowed the CD from my friend Wilkins, who lived at the end of the hall on my freshman dorm during my college days in Atlanta. Wilkins was a good ol' boy from G-Vegas and was one of the best guitar players I had ever met. He played in several bands and taught me how to play electric guitar. He was also responsible for turning me onto bands such as Widespread Panic and Phish.
Anyway, I borrowed Eat a Peach and made a copy on a cassette tape. I couldn't fit the entire thing on one side and ended up taping Mountain Jam on Side B. Mountain Jam was an epic 33:43 song. If I could pick one song to get a lap dance to... it would be Mountain Jam... almost thirty-four minutes in length. If there's one song I want played at my funeral, it's Mountain Jam.
Mountain Jam is not just a really long song without any lyrics or an improvisational jam. It's a journey and an original masterpiece of music where you realize the amazing abilities Duane Allman was blessed with as a guitar player. He was a visionary and we were robbed when he died at a young age. Only 23. This is the same hippie redneck kid who outplayed Eric Clapton on Layla by Derek and the Dominoes.
Duane Allman had a unique sound then and still does today. Allman was heavily influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane and often tried to imitate Coltrane's saxophone with his guitar. He played slide guitar using an old Coricidin bottle, originally used to hold cough syrup. The tiny Coricidin bottles fit perfectly around his finger. The slide enhanced his already one of a kind sound.
I listened to Eat a Peach on a constant loop when I first moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn in the mid-1990s after college. Filled with 20s angst, I was an extremely angry and confused individual. I wanted to be a writer and felt the creative energies pulling me in that direction, but I had the beginnings of a successful on Wall Street as a bond trader. Money, comfort, and stability did not appeal to me then and I made the difficult decision to sacrifice those things and wander on the road less traveled. The transition didn't come without heartache and the bittersweet melodies of Eat of Peach kept me sane in an insane world.
When I moved to Seattle, Eat a Peach followed me. Sadly, it would not leave Seattle. I sold my copy at a used bookstore a year later when I ran into financial difficulties. Before I got rid of it, I recall many fond memories writing a screenplay with Eat a Peach blasting at top volume in my tiny room. Eat a Peach also played in the background on my porch during sessions of supercool banality as I watched the rain fall with my slacker housemates, while we drank cheap beer, smoked cigarettes, and complained how we were all broke and uninspired artisans of one type or another.
I endured a dark and dismal summer of 2003 and sunk into the depths of despair. I managed to write my way through it and penned parts of my novel The Blind Kangaroo while listening to a copy of Eat a Peach that a friend was kind enough to burn for me.
Although some individual selections from the album made it into my musical rotation, I had pretty much put the entire album aside. I rediscovered it upon my return to NYC and it's been playing nonstop... from beginning to end... since that moment of reconnection.
As soon as I played the first few notes of Ain't Wasting Time No More, I dove head-first into a psychedelic pool of flashbacks. So many memories of my teen-aged years. My 20s. My early 30s. And my recent travels.
Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like rain.... are the lyrics from Ain't Wasting Time No More, the first song on the album. From the very beginning, the boys are setting the mood. Sure it's sunny out there, but I'm fuckin' miserable so it might as well be raining. The opening song has so many influential lyrics that I could go on and on all day writing about them.
Even the title of the opening track on Eat a Peach gets me all fired up. Ain't Wasting Time No More. Whether it's writing, poker, or life... that's a perfect a mantra. Duane Allman died when he was 23. Just another spiritual nugget to remind you that life is short. Too short to be bummed out or depressed or making excuses. Whenever I hear a bit of that song, I'm instantly reminded that it's time to step up and do something meaningful with my life.