- Chances that you will read this blog post: 1 in 656.
- If you start reading this post, chances that you will finish reading it: 1 in 7,200
Up to that point, I had been working on and off for about a year on some home recordings. My confidence in them was shaky at best. I didn't know if they would become an album, or just demos, or nothing at all.
Then the telethon. Then Trump. Then nothing. I don't know if it was depression, or burnout from hearing myself sing for 24 hours straight.
Whatever spell I was under is gone now. There's been a seismic shift. And it all started with an evening many months ago at my neighbors' house.... maybe it was a year ago... time has a curious way of fucking with me lately....
My neighbors were kind enough to invite me to their house for a séance. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Although it wasn't really a séance in the traditional sense - not like a bunch of people dressed in Victorian clothing asking great grandmother where she buried the jewels. A little more of a laid back affair. In any case, it sounded like an unusual way to spend an evening, so I went.
In attendance was a group of about 6 or 7 women. I was the only dude. The medium, a very sweet lady in her late 30's/early 40's, sat at the dining room table with an object similar to a planchette in a Ouija board. Whoever wanted to communicate with someone in the Great Beyond would sit at the table with another volunteer (there were always three of us at the table), our fingers lightly pressed on the object.
We could only ask yes or no questions. (Apparently in the spirit world it's difficult to formulate complete sentences.) If the answer was "yes," the object would spin in circles around the table. Faster spins meant a more emphatic "yes." If the answer was "no," the object would remain still.
There was a rotating guest list of spirits in the room that night. The medium would give us cues or prompts as to who was ready to talk to us next. "There's a young man here." "I see an older woman."
Let me just say that, although I consider myself to be a spiritual person, I am also somewhat of a skeptic, and I don't necessarily believe everything that happened that night. I think a lot of it was suggestion and us wanting to believe we were communicating with the dead. Whether it was real or not, it was, in a strange way, extremely therapeutic.
My best friend died in 1990. His name was Adam DeJesus. He died the same way my brother did - hit by a drunk driver. The medium said he was with us in the room. As Adam and I conversed for the first time in 27 years, the medium asked me, "What does 'garter snake' mean to you?"
Now if you've ever been slapped in the face, or had cold water suddenly splashed on you, or if you remember this scene from Lord of the Rings, you know the sensation I felt when I heard those words. It was visceral. Instantly I was seven years old, standing in the backyard of our old house in Canoga Park. This house was built on a hillside which overlooked the San Fernando Valley. Because it was on a hillside, interesting creatures would make appearances every so often.
On this particular Sunday afternoon, in the middle of summer, with a sky so blue you'd think you were staring at the ocean, a garter snake sat in the middle of the white concrete that made up most of our backyard. My mom, sister, Adam, and his older brother, Kiley, were all there. I can't remember if my brother Seth was there or not.
In any case I remember there was some discussion about what to do with the garter snake. Kiley, who must've been around 14 or 15 years old - yet seemed to my young eyes like a full-grown adult - suddenly grabbed the snake, swung it around his head a few times like a helicopter propeller, and threw it down the hillside.
That was the last we ever saw of the garter snake.
Not long after that, Adam and Kiley's father died. I can't remember if it was cancer or something else. Adam, as you know, was killed later. Marci, their mom, died of renal failure in 2007. Nobody knows where Kiley is. Word on the street is that he's homeless.
In no way am I saying that all of these events had anything to do with each other. But when she said 'garter snake,' all of the aforementioned came crashing into my consciousness like a semi driving through the living room.
Garter snake. Of all the things she could've said. Of every possible word combination. Of every possible creature. The fucking garter snake. Her saying that made me skeptical of my skepticism.
I responded to the medium by saying, "I know what that means. But I have no idea what that means." After some discussion, she suggested I go to the desert to figure it out. Specifically to Joshua Tree.
- Percentage of you that think I'm making all this up: 43%
- Chances that you believe in the afterlife: 1 in 5
- Chances that you have checked your phone while reading this blog post: 1 in 3
Cut to a little over a month ago. I'd been getting a lot of work. My wife had recently gotten over the worst bout of the flu I had ever seen. All this, combined with the fact that March was our birthday month, led to us treating ourselves to a few days in Palm Desert.
I didn't realize this, but Palm Desert happens to be a stone's throw away from Joshua Tree.
As we approached our hotel, the surrounding mountains said to me, "We're going to have a little chat later." (Chances that it was my imagination telling me that: 65%). For about a half hour I entertained the notion of going for a walk in the hills. But once again, my skepticism took over, and I decided not to just sit in the hotel room and read, and we hardly left the room for the next few days.
But the thing about the desert, and the things that dwell there - cacti, coyotes, epiphanies - they are notoriously stubborn. And if you're meant to have an epiphany in the desert, you're going to have one whether you like it or not.
Sure enough, on our last day there, as we were packing up our clothes to go home, it hit me like a sledgehammer.
TALES OF HEARTBREAK AND DESTRUCTION.
THE LAST SONG ON THE ALBUM IS
"THE TALE OF THE GARTER SNAKE."
MAKE SURE THE SONG IS LOUD.
STOP FUCKING AROUND AND DO IT.
It was the swiftest, hardest kick in the ass I've ever received.
There is a saying amongst start-ups in Palo Alto. "Move fast and break things." Since I've returned from Palm Desert, I've been on a writing and recording spree. I'm writing/recording first, and asking questions later. I have so many songs, in fact, I'm thinking of releasing two albums at the same time. (Since there's only about two people reading this, let's keep that between us. It'll be a nice surprise to everyone else. I'll write more on that later)
As far as "The Tale of the Garter Snake," I've been writing the song, but it's coming in bits and pieces. If I ever do get around to recording it, it will definitely be loud. And almost certainly it will be the longest song I've ever recorded. There's lots of loud guitars, and lots of screaming. Most of you will hate it, I'm sure. But for a select few..... well. We'll talk about it later, once it's done.
- Chances that you were let down by what my epiphany ultimately ended up being: 1 in 2
- Chances that you think I've gone totally insane: 1 in 4
I scribbled a ton of very entertaining stick figures and situations, and after having one conversation with an illustrator who was nothing short of a complete asshole, I abandoned it.
Want a taste? Here. This was how it was supposed to start. My apologies for the horrible drawings.
- Chances you enjoyed these illustrations: 1 in 7
- If you're one of my advertising buddies: 1 in 4,987,334
Anyways. There's a lot more to tell. But I'll leave it here for now. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading.
- Chances I love you: 1 in 1