Monday, August 31, 2009

101 Shows...and more to come!

Not long ago someone mentioned writing out 100 different concerts that they had been to and I thought to myself that I must have been to at least that many by now. I compiled a few posters where I've taped all the tickets from old shows. I uncovered a few in my storage drawers while rummaging through old possessions. I did research on the web to uncover the dates and locations of some of the shows that I only have memories of, but in the end I remembered 101 different shows that I've seen. Another task entirely would be to figure out how many different bands I've seen...probably doubling or tripling what is on this list. There are some four day festivals like Bonnaroo where I've seen as many as 15 - 20 artists within the four day span...but for now this list is an impressive compilation of just some of the fun nights I've spent listening to great music. All this considered, I've spent at least 1.2 percent of my days alive watching music. I like that statistic! And I hope I can continue this trend because I don't know much else that makes a simple man like me happier than the joy of music!

  1. The Vans Warped Tour 97 – August 2, 1997 – Pompano Ampitheatre - saw Blink 182
  2. Zetafest 98 - July 5th 1998 – Markham Park
  3. Less than Jake - January 18 1998 – The Chili Pepper
  4. Ska Against Racism – April 14, 1998 – Sunrise Musical Theatre
  5. Zetafest 98 – July 5, 1998 – Markham Park – Cracker, Faith No More, Black Crowes played
  6. Dave Matthews Band – August 26, 1998 – Coral Sky Ampitheatre
  7. Pearl Jam – September 22, 1998 – Coral Sky Amphitheatre
  8. Korn and Rob Zombie – March 9, 1999 – National Car Rental Center
  9. Candlebox – March 20, 1999 – The Button South
  10. Dave Matthews Band – May 2, 1999 – Coral Sky Ampitheatre
  11. Godsmack – November 24, 1999 – 1235 Washington Avenue (Club Level)
  12. Blink-182 – May 19, 2000 – Miami Arena
  13. Roger Waters – June 3, 2000 – Mars Music Ampitheatre
  14. Zetafest 2000 – July 23, 2000 - Bicentennial Park
  15. Pearl Jam Aug. 9, 2000 – Mars Music Ampitheatre
  16. Pearl Jam Aug. 10, 2000 – Mars Music Ampitheatre
  17. Cyberfest 2000 – September 2, 2000 – Florida Convention Center
  18. Limp Bizkit – December 18, 2000 – National Car Rental Center
  19. Vans Warped Tour 01 – July 28, 2001 – Pompano Ampitheatre
  20. Blink 182 – Aug. 2, 2001 – Mars Music Ampitheatre
  21. Vans Warped Tour 02 – August 3, 2002 –Pompano Beach Ampitheatre
  22. Tool – November 7, 2002 – Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center
  23. Louisiana Heritage Blues Festival – April 24, 25, 26 or 27, 2003 – New Orleans Fairgrounds/Racetrack
  24. The Cure – July 24, 2004 – Sound Advice Ampitheatre
  25. Pennywise – September 22, 2005 – Club Cinema
  26. Matisyahu – November 5, 2005 – Revolution
  27. Interpol – March 18, 2005 - Revolution
  28. Keb Mo – April 12, 2005 – Carefree Theatre
  29. Tooth n’ Nail Tour – Emery, Amberlin – A;ril 26, 2006 – Culture Room
  30. Slightly Stoopid and Pepper – May 31, 2006 – Hard Rock Live
  31. STS9 – October 5, 2006 – Revolution
  32. STS9 – October 6, 2006 – Jannus Landing – St. Petersburg, FL
  33. STS9 – October 7, 2006 – House of Blues – Orlando
  34. Bang Music Festival – November 11, 2006 – Bicentennial Park – DAFT PUNK!
  35. STS9 – March, 08, 2007 – Revolution
  36. Roger Waters – May 18, 2007 – Sound Advice Ampitheatre
  37. The Black Keys – June 22, 2007 – City Hall Nashville, TN
  38. The Smashing Pumpkins – June 7, 2007 – The Orange Peel Asheville, NC
  39. Vans Warped Tour – July 21, 2007 – July 21, 2007
  40. Disco Biscuits – October 9, 2007 - Revolution
  41. Circa Survive – October 25, 2007 – Culture Room
  42. Kings of Leon – November 2, 2007 - Revolution
  43. Pepper – November 7, 2007 – Club Cinema
  44. Yonder Mountain String Band – February 9, 2008 – Revolution
  45. Avett Brothers – July 19, 2009 – Parker Playhouse
  46. Atmosphere – July 31, 2009 – Revolution
  47. Counting Crows – August 18, 2009 – Bayfront Park Ampitheatre
  48. Benevento Russo Duo – Culture Room
  49. Oz Fest – Sound Advice Ampitheater, West Palm Beach, Florida
  50. Huda Hudia – Late Night Library, Tallahassee, FL
  51. Reel Big Fish – grad nite 1999 – Magic Kingdom
  52. Candyland
  53. Orgee
  54. DJ Monk
  55. DJ Dara
  56. DJ Icey – The Firehouse – Gainesville, FL
  57. Jackal and Hyde
  58. 311
  59. Mountain Goats – Tallahassee, FL
  60. Deftones
  61. Weezer – February 25, 2001 - Sunrise Musical Theatre
  62. Awesome New Republic
  63. Zeta’s Bonzai or Halloweenie Roast – one or the other
  64. Benny Benassi – Club Mansion, Miami, FL
  65. Matchbox 20 – Leon County Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL
  66. Incubus – Leon County Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL
  67. Fatboy Slim/Bassment Jaxx – Nikki Beach Club, South Beach, FL
  68. Radiohead – Sound Advice Ampitheatre
  69. Saves the Day – Tallahassee, FL
  70. Prefuse 73 – Club Downunder – Tallhassee, FL
  71. Prefuse 73 – I/O Miami, FL
  72. M.I.A. – I.O. Miami, FL
  73. Ratatat – Club Downunder – Tallhassee, FL
  74. The Walkmen – Club Downunder – Tallahassee, FL
  75. Grandaddy – Club Downunder – Tallahassee, FL
  76. What Made Milwaukee Famous – Emo’s Austin, TX
  77. People Under the Stairs – The Beta Bar – Tallahassee, FL
  78. G. Love and Special Sauce – The Moon – Tallhassee, FL
  79. G. Love – Tallahassee, FL
  80. Del the Funky Homosapien – The Beta Bar – Tallahassee, FL
  81. AK1200, J-Majik – Tallahassee, FL
  82. Horde Fest – 1997 or 1998?
  83. Blink 182 - October 10, 1998 Button South, Hallandale, FL
  84. Sun Fest – May 2009
  85. Ultra 2000 – South Beach, Florida
  86. Ultra 2001 – Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
  87. Ultra 2002 – Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
  88. Ultra 2003 – Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
  89. Ultra 2004 – Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
  90. Ultra 2005 – Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
  91. Ultra 2006 – Bicentennial Park, Miami, Florida
  92. Ultra 2007 – Bicentennial Park, Miami, Florida
  93. Ultra 2009 – Bicentennial Park, Miami, Florida
  94. Langerado 2005 - Markham Park, Sunrise, Florida
  95. Langerado 2006 - Markham Park, Sunrise, Florida
  96. Langerado 2007 - Markham Park, Sunrise, Florida
  97. Langerado 2008 – Seminole Indian Reservation, Florida
  98. Bonnaroo 2006 – Manchester, Tennessee
  99. Bonnaroo 2007 – Manchester, Tennessee
  100. Bonnaroo 2008 - Manchester, Tennessee
  101. Bonnaroo 2009 - Manchester, Tennessee

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On Living Cheaply...

Over the years I’ve learned how to live cheaply. Throughout my years as a college student I learned to live cheaply by cooking for myself at home and finding cheap entertainment – free keg parties, free kayak rentals at the FSU Reservation, as well as free concerts and movies on campus. I became good at living on limited means and still having a good time. Eventually I got a part time job and I had a little extra spending money. I was able to afford some extras like some clothes and an occasional concert. Still too much of my extra money went to six packs of beer, a splurge that’s still a hazard to my budget to this day. After a shift of delivering pizzas I would stop at the gas station and spend a chunk of my earnings on beer, and I would put ten bucks in my gas tank – enough for half a tank back then when gas was still a $1.50 a gallon, just five years ago.

Still I made some mistakes that many college students do. I got a credit card so I could live beyond my means and go on a vacation. Soon I was using it for basic things like groceries, a big credit no-no, and before I knew it, it was maxed out. A $2,000 dollar limit reached in just a few months. I consoled myself with the idea that soon I would graduate and I’d be making more money to pay off my bills. Paying off my credit cards would be one of the first things that I’d do, I told myself. It's been four years and the balance is still almost $1,800. Where has my money gone?

When I started working as a teacher I knew I still had to maintain a tight budget. I wasn’t going to be making tons of money but I’d have a lot more freedom with what I could buy and what I couldn’t. I’d also need to pay my own rent and car insurance among other things. I moved in with my girlfriend, Jackie, and by splitting rent and utilities we were able to share our expenses. We had lots of items that had been donated to us by our families like plates, bowls, and utensils for the kitchen, my girlfriend’s bed and sheets, a donated desk for my office. We still felt like we needed new things for our place so we spent money on kitchen wares (salad spinner, pots and pans) and we went to Pier One and bought nice placemats and pillows, candles and glass bowls for fruit. Little extras that I’d be pressed to find now. Still don’t know exactly where the salad spinner went. Our big expense was that we wanted a sectional sofa. We shopped for one at several furniture stores and finally bought one for $1,200 on credit. It took us several months to pay for it, but we finally did and we never had to pay interest on it. One indispensable expense was an iMac computer which has brought me great joy and helped me do my school work, pay bills and stay in touch with friends, but even on that purchase I found a way to save money by buying it refurbished for only $800 at the Apple store.

I look back at all the little things I bought back then and realize how useless some of those things were. Now our sectional still sits in my girlfriend’s house, used more in the last few years as a shelf for the people who continually come in and out of the house. Purses, paintings, forgotten things sit there only slightly more than Jackie’s Maltese did as he stared daily out the window at the front street. Everyone would sit on the worn couches in the family room where the television is located and the living room with the sectional has always remained mostly decorative. The Pier One Imports candles have stood unlit for years – too pretty to burn. The fruit bowl is still empty – my own fear being that it’s beautiful decorative mosaic glass could contain lead and so I await the day when I can buy some fake wooden fruit to fill it. Why haven’t I bought the fake fruit yet? I’m waiting for the right garage sale to find them. My philosophy on spending money has changed. Instead of buying things impulsively as I did when I first got a job, I wait.

As a teacher I know to wait for the beginning of the school year. Parents who may yelp at being asked to buy school supplies must not be checking the weekly flyers in the mailbox. There are tremendous deals for teachers and parents. Just yesterday I got 10 free duotang folders (to be given to my most needy students) 30 pencils and 6 one subject notebooks for just $3.30 at Office Depot. Right there is what any student would need to have the most basic of school supplies for most of his classes in school.

I wait because situations come up where other people offer what I need. At the beginning of the week I was worried about going to Home Depot to get hooks for a projection screen in my classroom. I wanted to reposition it next to my board instead of right in front, thus doubling my teaching space with the use of a projector. I fretted that time hadn’t allowed me to get to Home Depot, but then I realized that the men working to fix the portable right next to mine at the school could help me. Scott, who had joined us for happy hour the previous Friday, was one of those guys working in that portable and he was married to Traci, one of our Science teachers, so I wrote him a note to call me and I asked him to hang the projection screen up for me. Before I arrived in school that day my problem had been solved. The projection screen was hung in the exact spot and I didn’t have to stress about bringing a drill or buying hooks and screws at Home Depot. Problem solved, no money spent.

I also wait because I know now that most of what I need seems to land in my lap. People discard the bounty of things they have, they put their “junk” out on the curb, they sell it for a fraction of what it’s worth at garage sales, and family is always passing down the old to make space for the new. In the past few years I’ve been given almost everything I have needed. Recently I found a baby car seat on the side of the road in Naples – still in good condition. Driving around I also spotted a 5 gallon water cooler, and just last year I found a foozball table in excellent condition. I took it home in a van I had – (which had been purchased for just $800 and sold for $900 just months later) and I sold the foozball table for $50. From the garbage heap it turned to cash in my pocket. Not to mention the few months where we had fun playing with it in my living room.

Some of the things given to me by family and friends include a comfortable queen size bed from my grandfather, a 32 inch Sony television from my uncle (sure it’s not a flatscreen, but big deal), a beautiful wormwood coffee table, two office desks – each bigger than the last, the latest and biggest was acquired from a friend who was headed to the army and needed to discard of it. After helping him move he offered it to me, which through some work and some creative positioning I was able to fit into my Pontiac Sunfire and later reassemble.

Speaking of my car, that too was given to me by my grandfather. He offered to buy me a car after college and so I took it upon myself to find the best deal that I could on a quality car that could last me a few years. For $4,000 I got a 2002 model car with only 32,000 miles on it and it has yet to give me any major mechanical problems. It has driven me to Colorado and back and been a reliable car for getting to work. It has truly been one of the great money saving gifts in my life as I save quite a bit that could otherwise be going to car payments. I use it for only what I need and in that way I also save quite a bit on gas. I prided myself that it sat still in my driveway on weekends while I used pedal power to get groceries from Publix on my bike and also spent most of my free time cruising on my bike down the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk.

What has changed for me is that I realize how saying no to some impulse to buy the latest thing, or unnecessary luxury can allow me the freedom to do other things with my life. The money I saved could then be used on extended vacations and roadtrips – experiences which I have enjoyed a great deal.

Even now after years of traveling the roads of America I feel content knowing that the next few years may require me to bunker down at home and focus on the most essential in order to take the next great step in my life – starting a family. I recently read that a child can cost about $220,000 to raise to college age – that doesn’t even include the cost of college. I know that I can cut those expenses down to the most essential because I’ve been great at saving money and finding the cheaper way to provide the most important things I really need. My child will have to grow up realizing as I did that you are “Lozano del pueblo” as my parents told me. That translates to “son of the village” – not of the palace or the aristocracy, so my child will have to learn that we are people of limited means, middle class folk rich in culture and hardworking, but not monetarily rich. At least not right now.

Sure I will do everything I can so that my income can grow – getting my masters, working side jobs, and continuing my climb up the economic ladder. Perhaps I will become an assistant principal – they are continually searching for men from ethnic minorities and so being Hispanic I have an inroad into a 40% salary raise. All APs start at $71,000 which would certainly help me and my family live more comfortably and provide better for my children. My vacation time might be cut, but my lifestyle could improve overall.

It’s definitely a tougher economy and we each have to do what we can to hold on to our standard of living, but it’s not as hard as one might think. There are many little ways to save money that I’ve figured out over the years. Stay tuned for my next blog when I’ll get more specific about ways in which everyone can save more money!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Blogspot / On Being a Travel Writer

Well today I created a blogspot and I hope to use it to keep people in touch with what I'm up to in a more interactive way. I've always been a writer, but for a long time my writings have been more for my own journaling purposes - to chronicle life experiences so that I myself could revisit and remember them later. Sometimes I'd publish that stuff on my social networking pages, but I think with my own blogspot I can format it the way I like easier.

My dream job, I've often said, is to be a travel writer. I don't see it as some far off pipe dream, but something tangible based on the fact that I continue refining my craft and making myself into a better writer. And with confidence in my skills comes the confidence to approach those possible employers who might hire me to write. At first my travel writing will have to be self-funded.

The idea of becoming a professional writer can be daunting at times. Sure, there are many great writers out there, so what is unique about me is my authenticity and genuine connection to my subject. Only when connected to my subject with my own unique perspective can I hope to surpass what's been done before. Only by feeling genuinely first can I hope to write genuinely.

Some of the experiences I've written about include places I've traveled to and concerts I've attended. Of all my writings this is the most extensive collection and the primary kind of writing I continued to do even when I abandoned most other forms. Reading and studying the travel articles and music reviews from magazines such as Outside, Rolling Stone, Spin and Backpacker have always been ways of tuning into new styles and perspectives. It has helped me liven up my vocabulary and change my sentence structuring.

The Best American Travel Writing series is one of the best forums for great travel writing - the best being those pieces that highlight the not so lovely side of a location - the whole in the wall eateries, the dark and twisted bordellos and backalleys, the near-arrests and interrogations that occur when a Western writer tries to ask the wrong questions in a country where freedom of speech and the questioning of authority is off limits, the up close confrontations with soldiers and border patrol men, and with the sick and dying and poor. Not all travel writing is hotels and pina coladas and four star restaurants. The best occurs far away from those places with roads unpaved, in locations not yet gentrified, and not sanitized for the typical tourist.

The consequence of exposing a new location is that a travel writer destroys the sanctity of those places, opening the door for those that will inevitably follow, trying to replicate this original "bare bones" experience. As tourism begins the local economy and people are forever affected, and so things rarely stay the same. The unknown places we write about today can never stay the same, for we are bringing attention to them in ways that will forever alter the indigenous culture economically and culturally when those seeking the same experience arrive.

Any great writer is first a great reader. One of my favorite local travel writers is Thomas Swick who writes for the Sun Sentinel. Here are some excerpts from his short story "Have Book, Will Travel"

About the fact that most Americans do very little reading - "for this, too, travel writers are much better prepared. We tend not to enter MFA program, teach at universities, or live in New York City, so we are in constant touch with the great unread. From our hours spent in airports we know that most Americans, when presented with large chunks of free time and removed from demanding home entertainment systems, will still find almost any excuse - a cell phone, a laptop, another bag of chips - not to pick up a book. To travel is to be continually reminded of the growing homelessness of the written word."

More on the lack of American readers and the blogger age - "Tell a writer you write and depression set in; tell a writer you read and gratitude blossoms. Especially now, in the Blog Age, when it seems that more people want to write than to read (not realizing that you need to read in order to write anything that is worth reading, or hasn't already been written). But this is the inevitable result when a culture prizes self-expression over learning. It is the written equivalent of a room in which everyone is talking and nobody is listening."

Many people have blogs now - probably many of them writing more than reading all the other blogs out there. Who are we really writing to then, if all the people who might be reading our work are busy blogging themselves?

On Becoming a Comedian

Some of the things I often think about writing include funny anecdotes and ideas including those which might be appropriate for a stand up comedy skit. Things often pop into my mind that I think are quirky enough and original enough to make people laugh. Usually these things have to do with everyday events at work, at home, out shopping, cursing people out while driving. Similar to how I read to be a better writer, I watch and observe what good comedians do, and being a stand up comedian is not far from my realm of artistic outlets or career tangents. I have a good dramatic presence, voice intonation and impressions, and an affinity for comedic timing. Defuse my self-aggrandizing ego from that mix and I might just be a decent comedian.

On Being an Artist/Artistic Freedom

An artist should have free reign on what they create. In whatever medium they choose to create it. Written, drawn, painted, photographed, filmed, etc. I would not say that the written word is my only creative forum, just my most prolific. That doesn't mean I won't take a canvas and create some visual art through drawing, or pick up my camera or video camera. There should be no rules or regulations.

Sometimes your art may not be what people want to read or see. It might offend their sensibilities or it may not be what they expect from you. Their ego, which seeks to confine the world to that which we know and feel comfortable, may want you to create some other type of thing to fit in with the way they see you or what they'd prefer, but this is constricting to the artist. I wish for my art to liberate me as an artist and if we're lucky it might inspire the audience - oftentimes it's not about the person experiencing the art, but the experience of creating the art. The catharsis of expressing an emotion or an idea, to me, should be the reason the art is created. Beyond that point, no artist can be certain what the audience will interpret. Who knows if the person at the other end will see what the artist meant for them to see, but this is the risk we take as artists.

There is no emotion, or experience or perspective that is off limits to the artist. Anger and frustration, as atypical as they might be in the face of my usual buoyant personality, are very inspiring states of mind that fire me up with passion and give me great artistic fodder. I relish a good rage as much if not more than those who rush to calm and soothe me. "What's wrong? Why are you so mad?" Would you be surprised if I said that it feels great to be upset and angry, to be passionate about my feelings, even if they are dark and destructive? Let it be and soon the anger will run it's course and diffuse itself.

What silenced my pen long ago was something that I blamed on the inability to say and do exactly what I wanted to. My reasoning was that if there was a chance that my words would upset others and they would take offense to it, then I would not write, not because I felt guilty but because I refused to be censored. In a passive aggressive way I was lashing out at my audience for judging my art, for imposing expectations on my work. "Poems should rhyme." "Why are you so angry?" "That's...uh...different."

If expressing feelings hurts others you can imagine how much they might poison the artist holding them inside when they don't express them, but the self-conscious artist then takes heed to that person's hurt feelings or sensibilities and changes what was written to appease the hurt person. This is where we become untrue to our own artistic integrity. I do not write to impress you, to make you happy with me. I write because I am. and these things must be said. If you are offended by them it may be because you are taking things too personally, and this is the audience's demon, not the artist. The artist looks to exorcise his demons by expressing his feelings (Of course this is in regard to art and poetry, not personal attacks of the tabloid or gossip variety - one would understand if the person who those things are written about would feel offended).

"it all begins with letters, words and verses
the time you put into it equals what the worth is
and if you nonchalantly disregard your purpose
you’ll be blocked and it’s effect on you is recursive
Take it from me – I’m in the process of admonishing my guilt
for pilfering the pen and pad so bad the pages had to wilt
Who would I be, see if I never had been plagued by
thoughts that cross my mind but don't have the time to stay"
(Emcee Intellekt, a UF alumni, written when he was just 19)