That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Bows of Holly

Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. In light of current occurrences, I thought it apropos… You’ll get it before it ends. Once again, it has meter and rhyme — something that is not entirely in vogue. 

She’s the shining star we all desire

That none can ever rule

Your heart burns for her like a fire

But you are just her tool

She’s the old man’s broken dream

And yet the young boy’s folly

Slicker than a bowl of steam

People call her “Holly”

The face she wears is stunning, though

A most deceptive guise

Her whim will bring you running, though

Her wiles confound the wise

Being seen with her will frame

The diffident secure

Her colder shoulder, though, will name

The confident demure

Morally, she knows no bounds

She’ll draw you to the pit

You marvel at the sights and sounds

And beg for one more “hit”

She’s a fickle paramour

Her lovers span the globe

Their broken hearts on every shore

Still blinded by the strobe

She takes them, chews them up, and spits

Them out like melon seeds

When wined and dined and danced, she quits

Them once they’ve met her needs

What makes a person while so vain,

So ceaselessly divine?

The prize, when won, soon soaks the brain

In salty pickle brine

It could be our necessity

For fortune and for glory

Perhaps we find it best to be

The center of the story

It seems that most would pawn the heart

For billing and a statue

And wouldn’t you tear your soul apart

To have the world look at you?

The masses court disaster for

A night in Babylon

(Of) Illusion she’s the master, for

You’ll wake and she’ll be gone

Your puerile fantasy becomes

A living, breathing hell

The ruling sounds are pounding drums,

And sorrow’s telling knell

You wonder if she really cared

Somewhere down deep within

But in the dark she only bared

A wicked, mordant grin

She prances with the attitude

Of one who knows she’s wanted

She peppers you with platitudes

Her skill is widely vaunted

She seems to prosper, seems to thrive

But most will never know

That Holly needs us to survive

She’ll never let it show

For if we turned our backs on her

She’d wither like a leaf

She hides it well, would much prefer

To revel in our grief

So lose you will on Beverly’s hill

Or dip where Sunset strips

Dance the dance and take your fill

Of Holly’s poison lips

The Siren’s not resisted, so

Don’t stray within her range

The melody is twisted, so

Will certainly derange

Who would grind your soul to powder

Crush you into dust?

Whose seductive song grows louder

Begging for your trust?

Who would rip your heart asunder

Meaning you no good?

(You) Know the answer, needn’t wonder

Surely — Holly would!

Copyright 2001, Derrick L. Williams
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January 31, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, Entertainment, Hollywood, Metaphor, Morality, Movies, Poetry | 4 Comments

Myles Off Course!

Myles Munroe, speaking with Benny Hinn, says that God cannot operate on earth without a license from a human. He says that prayer is man giving God permission to operate.This dude makes it up as he goes! Where is THAT in the Bible? Since when is God subject to His creation?!?
I have often heard Creflo and Copeland, et al., say the same stuff.

This is a basic tenet of the Word Faith movement. It open-facedly seeks to elevate man and denigrate God. And honestly, if you follow this teaching, you are either a Baby Christian and not yet aware, or you are seeking to do what the Devil tried to do.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Benny Hinn, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Kenneth Copeland, Myles Munroe, TBN, Word of Faith | 37 Comments

“Thanks, Dr. King, for Everything. I’ll Call You When I Get Off.”

Don’t take this the wrong way… I thought this was ironic, and genuinely funny!

Today is, of course, the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday. A federal holiday which, I remember, was strongly protested back when the campaign was in full swing. A LOT of White folks saw no need for it. (The picture of the man is rosy in hindsight, but he was hated in his day!)

Kathy, my wife, works in tech support at a cellphone company. The personnel are pretty much all Black while the management is largely White. She is at work today. They are mostly off.

I play music for a living. Tonight, Monday, I play at BB King’s club. The band is pretty much all Black, while management and the mostly tourist audience is White.

There is an NBA basketball game being played here today. The players are… aww, YOU get it by now.

“Ain’t this supposed to be our day? Well, why are we all workin’, an’ all the White folks (who didn’t even want the Day in the first place!) are off?!?”

HiLARious! I’m not angry. I’m just saying…

January 21, 2008 Posted by | Civil Rights, Humor, King Holiday, Martin Luther King, Race, Racism, Work | 3 Comments

“In the Money-Green Corner… Juanitaaaaa Byyyyyynummmm!”

 Watch the video, and come back and read my comments.

Now, didn’t this sound like the intro to a champeenship fight?

I saw this while watching her show on tv, and it is my understanding that it is on her own website as well. Where is any semblance, any modicum, any crumb of humility? As we say around the way: She is a mess wit’ herself! There should be no further question as to her true character and motives now.

I mean, I understand that in business, there is a need for some self-promotion, but even in non-Christian related ventures, this would come across as arrogant! I think the word “God” was mentioned twice. This wasn’t just a little bit over the line, this was two minutes and fifty-four seconds of supercilious pride and haughtiness that would make Terrell Owens turn the channel.

Donald Trump was like, “C’mon. Juanita. That’s a bit much.”

Some Quotes;

She “cries loud” all right! All that yellin’ scared me and flashed me back to my childhood! I thought somebody was gittin’ a whuppin’ in the back room and I was next! Spare me!

“A tangible anointing.” Will someone pleeeze tell me what that is?

“The prophetess to the nations!” Says who? She profits from the nations! Yellin’ loud don’t make you a prophet!

“She’s an awful — Oh. Did he say ‘awesome’? — teacher who delivers God’s Word with ‘boldness and authority!’ “ Yeah, but how about accuracy?!?

Her ministry has been MARRED, not “marked with signs and wonders.” I remember seeing her once say to a vast, gullible throng something like, “Man! I wish y’all could see what I see! There’s angels and spirits flyin’ all around here! They ate that stuff up like it was Bluebell Homemade Vanilla!

“Bestselling author…, popular television personality (who) causes ratings to soar…, humanitarian…, a national ‘recarding’ artist (sorry, I don’t get that singing thing. SouljaBoy went platinum, too. The emperor has no clothes on, folks.)…, executive producer…, playwright, and powerful actress(!!!).” Okay, I was going to protest the “powerful actress” part, but as I think about it, that is pretty much all she does, based on comparing her demeanor and content to the actual Bible.

“Businesswoman, entrepreneur, blah blah blahblahblahblah…”

Y’all catch how they showed the one White woman in the crowd when the “promoter” mentioned “crossing denominational lines?!?” Now, THAT was some slick, subtle editing, there!!

She’s going to have a show (200 seats!), a radio show, a reality show, a magazine, a spa, some candles, some tea, and some make-up! She’s doin’ it BIG!

Let me axyou something, Miss Profitess: What about Jesus? What you gone do for Jesus? What big thangs is HE doing? Where is He in all of this, since you have folk thinking that He is your primary focus? All I see is you strutting and preening like a peacock back and forth across the stage. I only see pictures of your beautifully reconstructed face, not a picture of Christ in your carriage. All I see are your products. Your tea, and your make-up, and your magazine. All I see is YOU. Yet, you claim to be doing strictly the Lord’s work.

David boasted. But he boasted on the LORD! Because of him and those like him, we know of how great GOD is, how strong and mighty HE is, how matchless HE is, how wonderful, loving, just, merciful, beautiful, HE is. (Although, I would say that it is acts like yours that show us how long-suffering and patient he is!)

What about Jesus? Can we see Him doing this? Even though He has a right to?

Can we picture Peter saying on Good Friday,

“Ladeeees annnd gennnnelmen… Arrrre yooooou redddy for STAR time?!? Git up on yo’ feet an’ giveitup! He was rich, an’ gaveitup for YOU! From the town of Nazareth, by way of On Hiiiiigh… Commmin’ to you straight from the right hand of The Father HisSelf… He healed the sick, He raised tha DEAD!… Cured lep-ra-see! He fixed crooked legs an’ blinded eyes, He fed tha multitudes wit’ five loaves a’ lightbread an’ two cans a’ Jack Mack!… He ran off demons… He’s performed in Galilee, Jerusalem, an’ is comin’ to a hillside near YOU!… Some know Him as the Firstborn, the Bright an Mownin’ Star, The Son o’ Mannnnn, THE Angel of the LORD, E-Man-U-EL, YOU call ‘Im Saavyuh, I call ‘Im Friend, Howbouta grett big handclap ‘a’ praise… ridin’ on a thurrabred Arabian stallion, wearin’ the purple linen robes of pride an’ exaltation… Y’all giveitup… for Jeeeeesus!!!!!

(Sorry, Lord. I’m just trying to make a point…)

I don’t think so, yet you, Bynum, are bold enough to sell yourself in such a brazen, arrogant fashion while riding on the Lord’s back as though He were your pack mule, your opening act!

 I’m glad you let us see your real mission!

You must’ve sent one of your armor-bearers out to get your sheep outfit cleaned when they cut this promo… Would that Creflo, Paula, T.D., Copeland and the rest do the same.

I guess we have to learn the Bible to peep their game. I wish we all would. That is all I am saying. “No More Sheeps”, people.

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Charlatans, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, False Prophets, False Teachers, Humor, Hypocrisy, Juanita Bynum, Paula White, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, T.D. Jakes, TBN, Uncategorized | 32 Comments

…Just another office job.

Some of you may know that I play at BB King’s club here in Memphis on Monday nights. I used to be in the house band, and I will soon tell you how I came to not be. Playing in clubs is a treacherous endeavor. Here is one example of why:

The current house band has been on staff since we, Ty Brown, were replaced back in September of ’03. They back up the highly paid headliners and are required to know all the headliners’ material, as well as perform the last set during the week alone. They are an excellent group of players who tour with nationally-known acts on a regular basis. They have done great work for the four-plus years there, having to be proficient in various music styles such as blues (of course), pop, R&B, jazz, country, reggae, and soul. The guys would rehearse early in the mornings despite getting off late at night.

The year for a working local musician goes like this, generally; busy in the spring and summer, not so busy in the early fall, booked solid during the Christmas season, and hibernating in January and February!

At BB’s in Memphis, the year is about the same, except that Memphis in May is a BOOMING time for them. Beale Street is the main tourist attraction in Memphis — Elvis notwithstanding — and BB King’s club is the premier spot on the street.

I’m no business expert, but I know that a club like that establishes its budget around the busy season and lives off the fat in the slow time. I’ve been told that that is how they do it. Landscapers operate the same way. It is (usually) understood that musicians in a house band are employees just like the rest of the staff, and as such, have a set salary. The pay doesn’t fluctuate like gas prices or my blood pressure. It has never been my experience that this has been the case. Until now.

A new general manager was hired last year, and when she came in, she met with the leaders of the bands who played there and assured them that, unlike the past regimes, she understood the musicians and would work on their behalf to make the environment fair, respectful, and enjoyable for all of us. People have been getting fired left and right since then. (see the film, “I Come in Peace.”)

Last week brought the coupe de grass. She informed the band that due to the fact that the club was doing less business after Christmas, their pay during the week would be cut by twenty-five percent, and that if they didn’t like it, they could walk and that another band could be brought in at less than what she was offering them! Point blank. Cold blooded! Happy New Year! (Our band had its pay cut as well, but our bandleader took the hit and pays us the same as before, which is decidedly less than what we would normally make elsewhere.)

Now, these guys had done nothing to warrant this pay cut, and they should have quit. The hard fact is that the GM was telling the truth. She could bring in some hacks to play five hours for fifty dollars a man or less(!) and the average tourist would not know the difference because they would have no other point of reference and would be so caught up in the whole “Beale Street Experience” that they wouldn’t notice the poor musical quality. Musicians around here don’t stick together, and the union is feckless. There is some bad music on that street sometimes.

I was told that she said that the pay would go back up in the summer, but who’s to say? If they went for this — taking less money and liking it — they will go for anything. If the GM has shown no conscience or loyalty to the band up to this point, why would she be expected to when times “get good” again? All she is concerned with is the bottom line. It is the classic corporate model. Quality suffers while the bosses get richer. Look at all the plastic they put on cars now… But they are ten times more costly to own.

I’ll bet the managers didn’t take a pay cut!

This club can probably go the whole year from what they make from May until Labor Day. I was told by a lower-level manager once when I was in the house band that on a particular Saturday night while we were playing, the club was so packed, the band was so good, that they made 10,000 dollars on food and alcohol in one hour!!

It is funny: The musicians are the reason why these clubs even exist. The musicians are the ones who take thoughts and make them into art. Yet when there is “fat” to be trimmed, the musicians always get cut. Beale Street, BB Kings Club, would be just a restaurant were it not for the live music, and good musicians. But we always get the snotty end of the stick at these times.

I, personally, would have told the GM to go ahead and get some hacks to take the stage. My abilities don’t depend on HER, they depend on those who care to enjoy the ART of good musicianship. Another gig can be found without being insulted in this way. See how long the club would remain the premier spot with some crusty old dude in a orange suit sittin’ on a bucket playing an out-of-tune guitar with four strings on it. If jazz has only a niche audience, in all its elegance, think how small an audience there would be for gutbucket blues 24/7. 

The Bible says that for a time the injustices of man seem to go unpunished. The wicked seem to prosper. This may be one of those times, and I must fight to accept it. But I’m not wired like that! I had to at least say something! I can’t stand unfairness. Before you say it, No, BB isn’t involved with the running of these clubs that bear his name.

And here I thought I was out of the thorny corporate loop…

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Life, Life Lessons, Music, On the Job, Rant, Work | Leave a comment

“See How They Love One Another!”

This post is lonnnng overdue.

I want to — need to — tell you about my church.

I grew up in a Black Baptist church. I began going there when I was a pre-teen. I got baptized at fourteen years old. My church experience was the typical one: get up early,  go, listen to many songs, some shouting and crying, many announcements, stand for the entrance of the pastor, give tithes and or offerings, turn to my neighbor and say, “naaybuh…”, listen to some more songs (an “A” and a “B” selection), listen to a sermon, more shouting and crying, some falling out, watch the “urshers” attend the fallen, watch as “the doors of the church are opened,” listen to testimonies, sit through still MORE announcements, hear the benediction, wake my baby sister up, go home.

The service was replete with emotional outpourings. I, being a complete introvert, often felt uncomfortable with the displays, and was usually made to feel that I somehow did not love the Lord enough because I did not jump, shout, dance, and fall out like some of the others did.

Even though I knew that the Lord made me that way, this way, it took a long time for me to understand that there was more than one way to worship God, and that they are acceptable. I never thought the dancers were wrong (except for those I “discerned” were doing it for show), and I never once gave in to the crushing pressure to be untrue to my own character and worship Him in an insincere fashion.

But as I grew and learned, and visited, or played in, many other churches, I discovered two disturbing things.

1. While the adoration for God was ever on display, there simultaneously existed a frustrating absence of intellectual balance in the congregation.

2. The Church in America is painfully segregated.

People at my church, and others that I attended were sorely lacking in the knowledge necessary to love God “with our minds” as well as with the heart and soul as we are told to do. False doctrine was rampant, especially the prosperity teaching. Folk would break out in “tongues” with the impunity of knowing that no one had the information to challenge them for interpretations, stuff was being named and claimed, blabbed and grabbed, and legalism not unlike that of the Pharisees ran throughout. People were easily misled, and spouted the many disjointed Scripture verses they knew woefully out of context. No one seemed to be learning anything at all except how to shout like sister Davis, and “hoop” like the pastor.

And I rarely saw any White people. Unless some judge or prospective city councilman stopped by to ask for a vote.

I had always thought that if one were a true Christian, prejudice could not exist. I foolishly thought that racism was hatred and that one could not enter Heaven if he hated anyone. Stupid me! I live in, what I understand is, the second most segregated city in this country, next to DEtroit. That fact plays itself out in no more vivid way than on Sunday. I pass Methodist and Presbyterian and Southern Baptist churches and see NO Black people! There are churches here that I remember being White years ago that are now Black, not because they were outgrown, but because the neighborhood went Black and the Whites went away. Far, far away.

It always broke my heart that it appeared that the Christian life wasn’t being lived out because we could not open our hearts and truly allow God to reallychange us. The same people who denied me jobs, clutched purses when I walked by, ignored me when standing in line, pulled me over for no good reason, called me “nigrah”, and moved out when I moved in went to — go to — these churches. I am not fooled. Heck, the Klan burn CROSSES! Crosses, not pentagrams or some other symbol of racism, but the very emblem of suffering and shame by which God saved His people! Some of the people in my all-White-but-for-us neighborhood who never speak to us go to church, too!

Even the music is segregated! Go to a Christian music store and notice the “Christian” category versus the “Gospel” category.

After years of frustration over these two issues, I left my church (not the Lord, though) in the hopes of eventually finding a place where God was both worshipped AND known, and where people of all races felt welcome.

By the time I got married five years ago, I wasn’t even going to church. I was sick of all the empty, clanging emotionalism that was void of even the basic hermeneutical understanding necessary to avoid falling into the trap of materialism and cult worship. My wife grew up in the Church of God in Christ (Which is the Baptist church on Red Bull and amphetamines!I certainly wasn’t going there!), and I didn’t want to take her to my old church and expose her to the status quo. Many Christians today, yes many Black people, get caught up in false teaching because of the charisma and style of the speaker. They can’t see why Oprah is not a Christian. I am speaking in general, of course, but I have spent most of my life being Black. I have seen these things first hand. The “Black Church” is largely driven by emotion, and the congregants often don’t know God the way they need to. This grieves me.

While in Lifeway Christian Bookstore one day a few years ago, my wife and I ran into one of her co-workers. Their conversation eventually led to the church, and after hearing Kathy’s friend talk about hers, I told Kathy in the car afterward that that was our church! It was doctrinally sound and it was run by people who had moved here (Memphis) from all over the country to specifically reconcile the races here! Sold!!

We have been members of Fellowship Bible Church, Memphis since July of 2005, and for the first time in my life, I love church. It is not all of one thing or the other. There are those who are (politically) liberal, and those who are conservative. There are those who throw up hands and sing, and there are those who don’t. There are doctors and there are African refugees. There are Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and just about any other race you can think of. And there is this…

They LOVE!  Hard! All the way! They break open their lives like biscuits and share them freely without pretense or prejudice. I have never in my whole life experienced the openness and acceptance evident there. From all sides. It is Christian life in HD, 1080i, one billion megapixels, on a two mile screen. Believe me!

There are three teaching pastors, (Bryan Loritts, John Bryson, and Ben Parkinson) the lead teacher being Black. We don’t shy away from issues of race as many do in diverse environments, and they don’t give lip service to injustice. The idea is to take people from the comfort of the common ways of thinking and force them to live as Christ demands: loving thy neighbors as thyself, even the ones who look funny, dance off beat, or laugh loudly in theaters!

Growing up in Memphis has afforded me the opportunity to experience racism on a first-hand basis. I know what it looks like, which is why I hate and confront it here. I know what it feels like to be left out, unwanted. I know what the stares and the codewords mean. I have spent time away from Memphis, and have interacted with those of other races. But I have never had the wonderful fellowship I have now. We love each other like family! We spend time together, in each others’ homes. We use each others’ bathrooms!

I have stories of selfless acts of love that made Kathy cry (I don’t cry!) and that amaze us. I can’t recount them all. This church has shown me what I suspected but never witnessed; that God has true Christians of various hues who love each other unconditionally. And be sure that this love extends like climbing vines beyond the church and into the community in a tangible way. We give money and time to schools, and certain members have sought to live in rough neighborhoods in order to be change agents.

Maybe you have seen this but I, and those I know, never have. When Kathy gave birth to Max, we were amazed to find that every day women were coming to bring food until she was well enough to get around. Just the other day, one of the members, Megan, brought her son to the house and spent hoursputting our sunroom together. (Kathy is eight months pregnant, and we have never cleaned that room out) Wendy, (these ain’t Black names, you see…) came to the house last week to measure the windows in the kids’ room in order to hand make some curtains. Much, much more could be said. Much more.

Some of them read my New Year’s Eve post and chided me for not letting them keep Max when I was in a tight spot. These people take actual time and serve one another. Without seeking anything in return. I have never met so many affluent-yet-unpretentious people, White OR Black, in my life! (It was a whole year before I knew that “Eddie” was a freekin’ doctor! He was just Eddie to us)
These folks love us to death! And not as pets, which used to be the case back in the day. We are all equals. I don’t have to dilute my “Brotherness” in order to be seen as viable. And we love them! I would not trade this church for any other. And I tell my Black friends about it all the time.

We Black folk have a comfort zone, too. We like our food seasoned a certain way, our chitlins cleaned just so, our Gospel music sung a certain style, and our preachin’ hooped at a particular point in the service. I wish that we all could open ourselves up to the fact that God is not an American, that He made us all, and that we all find our reflection in Him. But we have been burned. Rejected and relegated. It is hard to break old habits. Not ALL White folks hate you.

Lest you think I am unwittingly in some CULT, understand that this church is populated by those who seek a full-orbed relationship with God. They know why they know what they know. And if they don’t, they are being taught by those who do. Our leaders are schooled, educated, and qualified. And they are humble. There are no titles, and we do not rise at their entrance. They stress servant leadership, not forced exaltation. They expect us to check their biblical work and are not offended by being questioned.

Of course there are differences in non-essential issues. No human-run organization is perfect. There are dispensationalists, amillenialists, charismatics, cessationists, Calvinists, and Arminians. But we all agree on the essential points of the Faith. And the spiritually sick are ministered to.

We are not taught the Bible in bullet-points, but by books. In context! We just got through with Ecclesiastes.

There is no Word of Faith doctrine or Prosperity pimpin’ going on here. No focus on the accruement of stuff. Rich and poor, sick and well alike, all enjoy the true prosperity of real life and Heavenly hope. Money is a tool and not a goal.

We worship individually and collectively in the way that God designed us to, and there is no peer-pressure. Some answer with “amen” and some nod quietly. Some stand and sing, and some simply stand.

Of course, there are problems that arise, but they are handled in a measured, Godly fashion. I truly feel that I have, in Fellowship, a small glimpse of what Heaven will be like in terms of our interaction with each other.

I know that some of you feel the same way about your place of worship. I hope you do. I know that some feel that if you are not of their particular denomination (CoC?) you are lost. This is in no way my assertion. It is just that in the course of writing my blog, the impression may be that there is a level of displeasure and despair, and that I don’t experience true Christian fellowship. Not true.

I just wanted to introduce you to my Family. The people I love.

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Culture, Diversity, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Hypocrisy, Love, Prosperity Gospel, Pulpit Pimps, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism | 24 Comments

“Where Do Bibles Come From?” Max asked.

My expectant wife, Kathy, and I were on the couch talking, and she remarked that Max (who is now 17 months old) has been increasingly poking her in her rapidly disappearing navel and asking, “Baby?”

She told him, “Yeah, that’s where the unbib — I mean — the umbilical cord is!”

“Yeah, son, ” I said to both of them,  “It would be called the unBIBLICAL cord only if we weren’t married!”

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Humor, Jokes, Malaprops, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

“I Have My Ph.D In The Rejection of the Obvious!”* — Hitchens

It seems as though one must be a genius to be an athiest. One must have an exhaustive knowledge of astronomy, physics, history, biology, chemistry archaeology, as well as every other belief system, mustn’t one? 

You gotta know a lot to be your own god!

To be a Christian, one can be a genius, but it is not a firm requirement!

One simply has to KNOW Christ.

*or, “Lalalalalalalalala! I’m shutting my eyes! Lalala!I can’t hear you!Lalalala!” he said.

January 4, 2008 Posted by | Atheism, Bible, Bill Maher, Christianity, Christopher Hitchens, evolution, God, Humor, Religion | 2 Comments

MY New Year’s Eve

 Tonight (Monday, new year’s eve) I am playing a party. I’d BETTER be! This is the biggest gig night of the year for a musician. My gig will pay me almost six times my normal amount. It is about a forty minute drive from home at a casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

I found out by text message at about 1 AM last night that the 5 o’clock sound check is mandatory. Now, normally, sound checks don’t involve me because I am just the sax player/background singer and I don’t have to set up any amps or pedals or anything. Usually the boss will tell me to just get there about thirty minutes ahead of time to check my mics and everything. I assumed that today would be no different.

I was wrong.

My wife hates her job. One of the reasons is that, for example, today she has to work. (She works every Christmas Eve, too.) She gets off at five. I watch Max during the day, and she takes over when she gets home. See where I’m going?

I text messaged the bandleader, who has always been reasonable about stuff like this — even on big gigs, to ask what I was supposed to do about sound check since I had Max and that Kathy didn’t get off till five.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that our other car has not been roadworthy enough for extended trips since this old lady ran me off the road and into a curb, and now whenever I have to drive more than a couple of miles, I start to smell tire rubber burning…

What am I supposed to do? I wrote.

In less than a minute his reply was, That’s not my problem.

Not his problem. Motherfather! (sorry. I don’t curse but sometimes substitutes creep into my mind… Pray for me)

So, as far as he knew, my wife would have to leave work early, or I would have to bring the baby with me to sit around and wait for two hours just for me to say, “Check, one two, one two” and come back home and get ready for a gig that won’t start till about 9:30!

Let me inform you here that for the type of gigs I usually do, sound check is a COLOSSAL waste of time. We all knew that if the time was set for five PM, they would not even start running cables until the entire rhythm section was set up. Why did I have to be there at 5? I HATE with a passion having my time manipulated and wasted!

That is EXACTLY what happened.

Heck, the boss — whose problem it was not —  didn’t even get there until 5:20! When I got there at 4:50 or so, the drummer was the only one there!

Okay, lately, I’ve been mulling and praying over the idea of starting my own band. I have a lonnnng list of grievances with my bandleader, the latest of which is the fact that I went the entire Christmas season without playing ONE Christmas party! This is usually the season to be jolly, pocket-wise! Meanwhile, he has been playing with other bands (he is the bass player in the band), renting out his audio gear, and is going to Singapore next week with a blues singer.

I’m not jealous at all. The thing is that we, his band, have been either sitting at the house, or scraping to find work while all the other bands are booked up. Part of the reason why he gets so much more than I do is because it is his job to deal with the agents and the clients, and to find us work! He expects us to be available when he books a gig, but his incentive to do so has been compromised because he has so many less stressful outlets by which to make money. 

It is a lot harder for a non-essential sax player to find work than it is a drummer or keyboard player. (I wouldn’t trade my horn for anything!)

When airing my grievances to the other guys (the boss basically blew me off and tried to string me along when I tried to talk to him), they felt that it was my job to take care of mine, and that when it was all boiled down, Bossman was looking after his OWN family.

Okay.

I always said that I didn’t want to form a band of my own until I got a manager to deal with all the headaches — lateness, drunkenness, drugs, irresponsibility, laziness, skirt-chasing, etc.

But the more I talked, the more I heard, “You’re ready! Get your own group.”

I am making a point with all of this. Bear with me…

I talked to a few guys, none but one of whom plays in the band with me regularly, about the particulars and possibilities of doing this.

“I want to play more jazz and Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra-type standards, and not this top forty/old school junk that we play ad nauseam. Is there a market for this here?”

“Should I deal with an agency, or go by word-of-mouth?”

“If an agency, what measures do I take to get signed?”

“I have no gear. How much would I need for this type thing?”

“How much would a small set-up be?”

“If I do this, would YOU want to play with me?”

“When I get enough cash to make a record, will you work with me on it?

I asked around to get the tenor of the times, so to speak, and a lot of guys wanted to get on board.

The thing is this: Was Bossman’s attitude so cold towards me earlier because he had somehow heard about my possible plans? I was very discreet, but my wife seemed to think that was the case. I felt that since I was not doing him wrong by trying to support myself — without taking any of his guys with me — he had no reason to be upset. Besides, I was only just thinking about it! I wasn’t trying to burn any bridges. The river’s too wide to try to swim back across!

Back to the story…

Everyone had told me to play it cool and not to go off, even though he had it coming! I’m terrible at the poker-face.

So it’s 5:30, and everyone was at the venue, but nothing was set up, and the lone sound man was dragging his feet. Setting up a stage this size is an hour job for three or four guys, so having just one didn’t bode well for us, time-wise. And I had to go all the way back home to get dressed.

Most of the other guys had brought their clothes, but, as I tersely related to the foot-dragger, I didn’t assume that I would not be able to return home from a 5 o’clock sound check for a gig that started at freekin’ 9:30! That’s why I didn’t want to go all that way in the first place! I knew they would be piddling around with my time!

He made a smart remark that left me biting a hole in my lip.

The funny thing is this: When the boss saw me, he smiled, said, “What up,” and proceeded to pass out calendars for next year! As if all this down time were just a blip! He was totally oblivious!

If he were planning to pre-emptively fire me, he surely wouldn’t be doing that!

At 6:40, 6: doggone 40, the lead singer walks in cool as iced tea, and nobody raised an eyelash. Now if he could do that, why did I, as far as the bandleader knew, have to get my wife to leave work early and lose money for me to sit around for two hours before any microphones were turned on?!? Why was it so crucial that I be there to stew in my own suppressed anger with nothing to do but watch the “Beverly Hillbillies” marathon backstage on Nick at Nite?
At 6:45, we were ready to check the mics and the instruments. The lead singer’s mic was awful, and the sound man, frustrated by his lack of help, and by our absence of sound check etiquette (everyone was checking stuff all at the same time. I hate that), snapped at us.
This, this set the boss off, and he proceeded to curse the guy out as I walked past them both on my way to the car for the forty minute trip home to eat and change. I thought it was interesting that he went to bat for the guy who showed up an hour and forty minutes late, but left me to fend for myself earlier without even a thought.
All night during the show, he tried to crack jokes with me and make light while I concentrated on being professional, and sang on a mic that wasn’t even on! I couldn’t even be phoney enough to make eye contact with him.
As the lead singer butcherized the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” my decision was being hardened with every beat.
The show was complete with belly dancers, showgirls, fire-baton twirlers, full-scale pyrotechnics, and smoke machines that made the place look like the devil’s lobby! All I kept thinking was of the rich man in the Bible, all nervous,  saying, “Please! Somebody get Lazarus on the phone! He knows me! Somebody call Lazarus!!”

 I told Kathy about all of this when I got home.

“Baby, now, a new year is coming in!” she said in an attempted motherly tone. “You can’t be ticked off for the new year.”

“Why not?” I asked, ” ‘Cause I’ll be ticked off the whole year?”

“Well, you know,” she said, “History does like to repeat itself…”

“No, it doesn’t LIKE to. It just TENDS to.”

We threw back our heads and laughed. (freeze frame, roll credits…)

This year will be different.

Happy New Year, dear readers! I love you all. Thanks for indulging me in this endeavor, and for encouraging me. May God bless you as He has blessed me, and may He give you the nervous anticipation and hope that He has given me as we all embark on this new journey called 2008.

January 1, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Humor, Life, Music, New Year, On the Job, Playing Music, Saxophone, Work, Writing | 4 Comments